A task force of bipartisan lawmakers on Thursday released a report recommending a detailed cybersecurity agenda for the incoming Trump administration, even as the issue dominates talk on Capitol Hill.
The panel, co-chaired by House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. D-R.I., released the 34-page report in a press conference in which they outlined the top priorities for preventing foreign hacks of sensitive data.
“A silent war is waged against us in cyber space –if we don’t shape it, it will be shaped against us,” McCaul said. “Every person in this room is a target and the phones in your pocket ar the battle space –and the enemy is winning.”
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) sponsored the CSIS Cyber Policy Task Force, which produced the report. A similar report was presented to then President-elect Barack Obama in 2009, and compiled by a commission also served by McCaul.
Although Trump has expressed skepticism aboutthe U.S. intelligence community's claim that Russia was behind hacks that may have influenced the election, there is reason to believe his team will take heed of the task force's report. Co-chair and former national director of U.S. Cyber Challenge Karen Evans, who was on the task force from its inception, is now a member of the Trump transition team.
“We have given the report to the transition team at their request,” CSIS Senior Vice President James Lewis told FoxNews.com. “There are issues I know they are particularly interested in, so we will get traction in those areas.”
McCaul said cybersecurity must never become a partisan issue and called for a major reorganization and consolidation of domestic civilian cyber defense efforts into a single, strong cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security.
Whitehouse agreed that a single specialized office could attract world class talent and improve cyber security measures.
Lewis said a review of DHS by the task force determined that as little as 2 percent of its budget went to the department’s cybersecurity division.
“If the Trump administration is going to be serious about this, they need to give DHS the focus and resources to make cybersecurity a primary concern,” Lewis said. “The transition team holds their cards close to their vest, but I’m confident they’ll pick up the ball from where it’s been left on the field and run with it—I think that’s a good thing.”
The task force, Sen. Whitehouse urged, also strongly recommends the appointment of a new cybersecurity coordinator, and the push to elevate the position to assistant to the President.
The press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday convened at the same time as the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Russian hacks.
“The President-elect wants stronger relationships with Russia and to change the dynamics we have with Russia,” McCaul said during the press conference. “There are radical Islamist forces that will perhaps be more aggressive in attacks against Russia and I think it is an opportunity for us to work with them, but Russia is not our friend – [President Vladimir] Putin is not our friend.”
But one former operator within the NSA and current CEO of Soteria, Chris O’Rourke, a small cybersecurity firm based in Charleston, S.C., told FoxNews.com the government needs to create a better pipeline to share information to smaller firms with budgetary restrictions.
“The reason policies have failed under the Obama administration is because they made it somewhat of a ‘big boy club,’ a pay-to-play operation, but the innovation is in the smaller cyber security companies,” O’Rourke said, noting smaller agencies are filled with former federal cybersecurity operatives. “We are former hackers fighting hackers."