If we have to have a National Emergency declared to pursue initiatives Congress won’t pass or can’t pass expeditiously, perhaps we should focus on an issue that does actually merit alarm. There are many such harbingers of doom vying for our immediate attention: rising global temperatures and sea levels threatening our coasts and intensifying our weather, the re-emergence of once vanquished diseases now infecting large numbers of American citizens, the quickening erosion of democracy caused by crippling political division and a rekindled love affair with authoritarianism. There is no shortage of real emergencies that $5 billion could at least start to address. But I think none looms larger than the tangible and immediate threat cyber attack poses to every aspect of our lives.
If you need to inject more fear into your thoughts, “13 Alarming Cyber Security Facts and Stats” can help. If your policy positions tend to be driven primarily by financial concerns, consider that cyber attacks will cost $2 trillion in losses by next year, and industries will spend $6 trillion in cyber defense. If you fret over public safety, you surely won’t be comforted by the fact that 75% of the health care industry’s systems are infected with malware, and that only 38% of global organizations claim they are ready to respond to and withstand a cyber attack. If you think this will all just go away, like climate change perhaps, ponder the scale of the problem: hackers attacking every 39 seconds against 200 billion connected devices owned and operated by humans whose innate naivete seems always to get the better of them. Some of these connected devices help critical infrastructures function. They will just as surely help them malfunction when attacked properly.
Cybersecurity – or the lack thereof – is a real national emergency. I would applaud a leader who, stymied by a co-equal branch of government, took a Constitutional gamble to allocate quick and copious funding for a wall – a cyber wall. That person would prove to be a hero. I am not a fan of making bold predictions, nor am I necessarily qualified to do so. But my lumbago is acting up, and that tells me there will come a day soon when we’ll deeply regret this fetish with 18th century border technology as we cope with the porous borders of our digital space.
Instead of funding a vanity real estate project on the fallacious and racist premise that it will curb an imaginary surge in illegal border crossings of brown-skinned migrants carrying drugs and disease into our pristine and gilded cities of liberty and freedom, perhaps we should spend that money – and much more – on taking steps that will actually protect our shining city on a hill. Mexico might not pay for it, but I think the American people, once they realize the immensity and immediacy of the problem and what’s at stake, actually would.