Senator King’s cyber commission stops meeting

The US senator from Maine has spent the past two years as co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, and it is scheduled to be closed.

MAINE, Maine – As more businesses face ransomware hacks, the threat of cyberattacks remains significant. For this reason, Congress created the Cyberspace Solarium Commission to reshape how the federal government thinks about cybersecurity.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was co-chair of the commission, along with Rep. Michael Gallagher, R-Wisconsin. After 50 meetings over the past two years, the work of the group will conclude this week.

King told the NEWS CENTER Maine that he was proud of the commission’s work over the past few months. An example of this work was the creation of the position of National Director of Cybersecurity, which will focus on cybersecurity and cyberdefense at the federal level. Chris Inglis was appointed to this position last summer.

In addition to establishing the new post in Washington, the commission has enacted more than a dozen laws, and more recommendations are on track to become law in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

The commission also looked at all kinds of cybersecurity threats, ways to strengthen defenses and be better equipped for the future. While some may think cyberattacks happen internationally, King said many of them are more common and in spaces people wouldn’t expect.

“The real conflict is in the private sector. About 85% of the target space in cyber is in the private sector. The power grid, the financial system, the transportation system,” he added. “So we need to establish a new relationship between the private sector and the public sector to mutually defend the country.”

Private sector experts were on the King commission, along with executive branch officials and other lawmakers.

Many Americans have heard reports or know of people affected by ransomware or other cyberattacks. King said the threats aren’t just a problem in the United States, Russia or China. It’s a global problem.

Because of all the international communications, an important recommendation of the commission was to create an office within the Department of State to work with other countries and establish the “rules of the road”.

Before lawmakers could submit legislation on the issue, King said the State Department announced it would create the office. The legal wording is still in the works, according to the senator.

Many conversations in the committee centered on national and international security. But King said cyberattacks could happen to anyone in Maine.

“Almost every major cyberattack we’ve heard of in the last few years started with someone on a desktop computer in a small office somewhere, clicking on an email,” he added.

One of the easiest ways for hackers to use cyber attacks against people is to gain access to their cell phones. During committee meetings, King learned that smartphones are vulnerable when they are always on.

“But if the phone is turned off like once a week, [hackers] have to go through all the trouble again of trying to sneak in,” he said.

The commission will stop meeting, but cybersecurity problems won’t go away or be solved by a series of new laws, King said. He and other lawmakers will continue to work with the private sector to advance progress made since 2019.

Watch the full interview with King below.

More stories from NEWS CENTER Maine.

Aurora J. William