In recent years, the relentless onslaught of foreign state-sponsored hacking campaigns has thrown the global landscape of cyber warfare into turmoil, specifically jeopardizing America’s national security and economic stability. Amid this digital warzone, we face threats from several foreign adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. However, the ominous specter of China’s escalating cyber aggression looms as our chief adversarial challenge, as evidenced by the chilling possibility of our very own Texas power grid falling prey to their malicious software attacks.
China’s malevolent intentions toward America’s digital infrastructure cannot be downplayed or dismissed. As the head of a leading and minority owned Austin-based IT services and cybersecurity company, I find this threat incredibly alarming. It must serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s policymakers and businesses because this is not a distant hypothetical, but a stark reality we are currently facing.
Today, technological prowess equates to geopolitical power. However, some lawmakers in Washington have pushed for anti-innovation legislation that would tip the scales in China’s favor and eliminate our competitive edge in the technology sector. These measures would not only confine the business operations of major companies, but also impact smaller businesses like mine that need every tool at our disposal to stay ahead in the rapidly, constantly evolving cyber threat landscape. Lawmakers should reject any proposals that would cripple our technology sector and drag us down the ranks of global digital leadership.
Many of my clients operate within industries that support our critical infrastructure, as well as our nation’s military preparedness. Consequently, they are on the front lines of the ongoing battle against cyber threats. I cannot emphasize enough how much the constant barrage of malware and cyberattack attempts originating from China and America’s other global adversaries impacts the small businesses we serve in Central Texas and beyond.
This threat has moved far past the local or state level. Chinese hackers’ theft of intellectual property causes immense damages nationwide, resulting in an annual loss of nearly $500 billion in Intellectual Property. China’s hackers are also relentlessly targeting our government systems, aiming to access classified information and disrupt essential operations. It’s not just a minor issue – we’re talking about the very fabric of our national security being at risk.
In the past few months alone, China’s hackers have executed a series of high-profile cyber intrusions, including a successful breach of email systems used by prominent U.S. officials, including the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of State, and top U.S. diplomats. Right here in Texas, the utilities serving our critical military installations such as Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio, and Lackland Air Force base were recently targeted by a Chinese government-backed hacker group known as Volt Typhoon.
To ensure the United States is not hamstrung by the aggressive actions of China’s cyber-warriors, America must employ proactive strategies that promote innovation. Additionally, our lawmakers need to actively support small businesses that fend off these attacks every day so they can focus on safeguarding their assets, enhancing their cybersecurity posture, and protect both existing and future American jobs. When a company folds due to a cyberattack, it is not just the business owner who is hurt, but every employee and their families, who can often face crippling financial challenges as a result. The cost of falling prey to ransomware attacks add to the already astronomical $500 billion price tag American companies face each year due to IP theft.
It’s time for Congress to recognize the undeniable truth: technology is the cornerstone of America’s economic prosperity, national security, and defense of our core values. Limiting unnecessary government regulation and providing our businesses with the tools they need to mount a robust cyber defense will help us preserve employment opportunities, ward off digital authoritarianism, and protect our technological sector from the CCP’s continued aggression.
Combatting cybersecurity attacks from foreign adversaries such as CRINK (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea) nations is a never-ending battle, with no single ‘silver bullet’– it requires multiple, overlapping layers of innovating solutions. Our lawmakers need to respond to the issue by finding new ways to promote innovation instead of stifling it. Businesses like mine rely on our leaders to preserve a free and open technology landscape as we continue to search for fresh, modernized ways to enhance and protect our operations from the myriad threats that already exist in today’s interconnected world, and those to come.
Eduardo Contreras is the Founder and CEO of Austin-based ALCON DTS, a managed IT and cybersecurity services firm.