Rep. Gerry Connolly said a sweeping information technology law he co-authored could help agencies better protect themselves from attacks.
During the Amazon Web Services Government Symposium Thursday, the Virginia Democrat said the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act that passed last year could close some of the security gaps prevalent in government systems.
“There’s a soft underbelly of technology: the vulnerability,” he said. “Protecting privacy, protecting databases is really important. That’s why we passed a law called FITARA.”
This year, officials have started rolling out that law, which will give top-level agency chief information officers more authority over their budgets. Connolly said it better positions agencies to make system upgrades and purchase what they need to guard themselves against breaches — like the one that recently struck the Office of Personnel Management and exposed the data of millions of current and former federal workers.
The OPM breach underscores the need for more reform, he said.
It “exposes an antiquated technology system in the federal government [and shows] what could go wrong when you don’t make the investments you need to make to stay ahead of the game,” Connolly said. “They were easy targets for a cybersecurity attack.”
Echoing comments he made at a hearing Wednesday that investigated the OPM hacks, Connolly said the breach is a harbinger of a looming threat. “We’re kind of in this low level, but very intense, cyber Cold War with the Chinese and the Russians,” he said. “We need to better guard ourselves.”
Connolly said it’s critical that the U.S. better prepare for cyber attacks — whether it’s from a hacker in a garage or a foreign government.
“We’re not helpless, but we need to be willing to make the investments in order to reap the returns,” Connolly said. “That’s a key message for all of us: These investments in technology have a high rate of return in terms of what they empower us to be able to do.”