Episode 40: Federal agencies struggle to combat cyberattacks

U.S. government faces massive uptick in cybersecurity breaches.

When hackers broke into the computers of top American discount chain Target Corp, it made international headlines. Cyber-criminals sucked up tens of millions of credit card numbers, email and home addresses, phone numbers and more, selling them on the blackmarket to reap untold millions of dollars in profits.

Target was forced to spend hundreds of millions in computer security upgrades, and much worse for the company was the loss of its customers’ trust.

But what if you didn’t have a choice about whether to shop at a particular store, or whether to give an organization access to your identifying data?

What if you were forced to turn over personal information that’s even more sensitive to an organization with an incredibly poor track record for keeping that information safe?

Well that’s the situation most Americans are already in, and the organization that collects all our data is the United States federal government.

On this week’s podcast, DecodeDC examines the massive uptick in cybersecurity breaches in the federal government. Just a few years ago, in 2006, the government suffered about 5,500 data breaches. Last year that number was more than ten times higher; the government documented more than 61,000 security incidents.

There are lots of reasons why security is getting worse, not least of which is the fact that cybersecurity is a constant cat-and-mouse game, with professionals constantly trying to catch up with ever-evolving criminal schemes to breach government computers.

But it’s also true that the federal government is particularly bad at protecting data. With frozen salaries and Congress’s constant budget battles, the government doesn’t always have the resources to attract cybersecurity professionals with the expertise and experience to protect the massive treasure trove of data it collects.

Listen to our latest show, “Cybersecurity part 1: We’ve Got Your Number.” and make sure you catch up with us again next week, when DecodeDC examines the vulnerability of America’s critical infrastructure to cybersecurity attacks.

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