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IT Groups Press Congress for Cybersecurity Funding

Information technology (IT) groups representing dozens of industry heavyweights are lobbying Congress to include more funding to update systems and fortify cybersecurity in the next coronavirus (Covid-19) stimulus package.

The cybersecurity push comes as Congress and the Trump administration also seek to replenish the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) for small businesses sometime this week.

Ahead of those PPP efforts, six leading IT and Internet associations last week presented a letter to congressional leaders strongly urging members to allocate money to protect critical infrastructure nationwide and meet the Covid-19 national emergency.

The proponents include The Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI), Center for Procurement Advocacy (CPA), CompTIA, Cybersecurity Coalition Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the Internet Association. Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce, Twitter and a host of cybersecurity providers support the various associations. A separate but related effort involving ConnectWise and its channel partners also is under way.

The federal government’s initial stimulus package, signed into law in March, allocated some $9 million to supplement the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Funding was also included to update IT systems for government agencies. The backing, however, isn’t enough to offset the crush of online phishing attacks and offensives directed at the flood of teleworkers and employers relying on remote access security since the Covid-19 pandemic, the computer associations said.

What Cybersecurity Advocates Want

The group recommended that a second wave of IT and cybersecurity relief include:

  • Adequate funds to modernize IT systems used by agencies working on the front lines of this pandemic and future emergency responses. Such funding should be made available for expenditure over multiple years.
  • Establish and fund a mechanism that provides federal financial support to state and local government agencies in need of IT modernization and upgrades that, in turn, will enhance the speed and effect of relief efforts for citizens, business, hospitals, and organizations in direct need during the COVID-19 and subsequent emergencies.
  • Support for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) at an appropriations level that would allow for meaningful investment in cross-agency IT modernization initiatives.
  • Ensure that IT modernization efforts include focused attention and investment on strengthening cybersecurity, workforce training, and process transformation.

“Despite significant support in recent years, including funding for agency telework and remote operations in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the current national emergency continues to highlight the need for additional IT investments to ensure our nation is able to effectively respond to this crisis,” the groups wrote.

“Congress has already made it clear that improving our digital infrastructure is a critical priority for America, and we urge you to ensure funding of the appropriate size and scope to address these obvious needs is included in any subsequent relief package,” the association letter said.

COVID-19 Pandemic: Cyberattacks Rise

Evidence of a spike in Covid-19 related cyber crime has started to take shape. For example, online crimes reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) have roughly quadrupled since the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of cybersecurity complaints to the IC3 in the last four months has spiked from 1,000 daily before the pandemic to as many as 4,000 incidents in a day, according to officials in the FBI’s cyber wing.

In addition, Covid-19-related email phishing attacks have spiked 667 percent since March 1, sparked by opportunistic hackers capitalizing on widespread fear and uncertainty surrounding the contagion, a new threat intelligence report said. Cyber criminals are reportedly using Covid-19 information to target and trick people into opening malicious documents or clicking on malignant links.

“In this new era of remote collaboration, government must take advantage of the opportunities created to modernize processes for efficiency, security, and cost savings, but must also act to reduce inherent risks associated with an increased reliance on connected technology that leaves agency networks and information vulnerable without appropriate safeguards,” the group wrote.

The tech supporters addressed the letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

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