FBI Director James Comey says stopping cyber terror and cyber espionage are top priorities for his agency.. He is with Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha at FBI Headquarters in Honolulu
FBI Director James Comey says stopping cyber terror and cyber espionage are top priorities for his agency.. He is with Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha at FBI Headquarters in Honolulu
FBI Director James Comey says stopping cyber terror and cyber espionage are top priorities for his agency.. He is with Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha at FBI Headquarters in Honolulu

HONOLULU — The attack on Sony Pictures and threats to the movie industry cannot be tolerated, one of the nation’s leading security experts says.

Lynn Mattice is president and CEO of the National Economic Security Grid, a non-profit organization focused on educating small and medium sized enterprises on a broad range of threats they face.

“If we sit back and do nothing, we let the bad actors win,” he said. “We need to respond aggressively to protect our country from these cyber terrorists or this is just the beginning of a whole new chapter of terrorism further impacting our freedoms and our democracy.”

He was referring to the news that Sony Pictures this week canceled the release of “The Interview” after North Korean hackers made threats against the company. Paramount has pulled “Team America: World Police,” a satire mocking the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

“The cyber threat affects all of the FBI’s responsibilities. That’s where fraud happens, that’s where kids get hurt, or espionage happens, and it is where terrorists increasingly go, so that is something I have made a personal priority,” FBI Director James Comey said during a recent visit to Hawaii, before the threats were made public.

“Congress has given us the resources, because Congress sees the threat the way we do, that we have got to keep up with the bad guys. We cannot get beat either in terms of common sense or by somebody in their pajamas in their basement half way around the world,” Comey said.

Said Mattice: “Congress passed the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 and National Trade Secrets Act to specifically address the growing threat of theft of intellectual property from American businesses. In the nearly 20 years that the EEA has existed, the Justice Department, which the FBI comes under, has prosecuted only a handful of cases.”

The government has yet to deploy one of the most effective tools to combat economic espionage contained in the EAA, Mattice said, such as imposing duties, tariffs, sanctions and embargoes against nations that initiate or sponsor economic espionage or fail to cooperate to stop elements within their country from conducting economic espionage and trade secret theft.

“If the U.S. took a stance that any nation-state that engages in or sanctions economic espionage, the theft of trade secrets from the U.S., as well as cyber-attacks of all types or fails to cooperate and bring those to justice residing in their country that are engaged in economic espionage, the theft of trade secrets or a cyber-attack of any kind … based on the severity of the incident, will immediately be subjected to duties, tariffs, sanctions or embargos. The government should also suspend or cancel any and all government or military aid excluding true humanitarian aid to people provided by the U.S. government,” Mattice said.

“Why isn’t cyber being attacked on a single front by federal law enforcement? The American taxpayer cannot afford to continue to fund the creation of Silos of Excellence in the government. We need a fully coordinated effort across all departments and agencies that eliminates redundancy and duplicative efforts.”

Ron Gula, CEO of Columbia, Md.-based Tenable Network Security, said cyber threats are a drain on the U.S. economy through loss of intellectual property and loss of consumer confidence in our places of business.

But unlike the Ebola outbreak or the recent protests against police violence, Gula maintains the public understands little about cyber terror.

“If you asked the general public for opinions about Ferguson (Mo.) or containment procedures for Ebola, you will get strong opinions. However, if you asked the average CEO or even home network users what they are doing to stop an attack like Sony or Target, the knowledge of what they could or should be doing isn’t there,” Gula said.

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