Time has come for cybersecurity push

I’ve been thinking a lot about cyberspace.

Sure, I’m curious about what President Barack Obama is proposing in his State of the Union address to tighten cybersecurity. It’s an important issue that should resonate with the Las Vegas business community. We’ll circle back to that.

My immediate focus is even closer to home. Nobody ever said launching a new website is easy but we’ve hit more than our share of bumps in launching our site at BusinessPress.Vegas. We’re working on a host of issues and better days are ahead.

For those who have had nomination for the Rising Stars program bounce back, I apologize. The .Vegas email addresses are working now.

We’ve got a little more work to do on the website before it’s where we want it to be. Stay tuned. We have a crew of bright people on the job.

All of this made me think of the pain felt just short of a year ago by the IT team at Las Vegas Sands Corp. The short-form recap is:

On Feb. 10, a cyberattack crippled The Venetian and The Palazzo. Not inconvenienced — crippled. The servers crashed; computer systems were dead; phones didn’t work; the loyalty program was no longer loyal; winners couldn’t cash tickets; guests couldn’t check in or out. It was a mess.

In deconstructing the attack, cyberexperts found hackers had been testing security precautions weeks earlier at the Sands’ outpost in Bethlehem, Pa. Perhaps the Sands hadn’t been quick enough in rolling out state-of-the-art defenses. It likely wouldn’t have mattered to a determined adversary. And that’s just what the Sands had confronted.

There was no need for deep investigation to identify Iran as the source of the attacks. After all, it was just a few months earlier that Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson told a university audience the U.S. should consider firing a nuclear warning shot to help Iran’s leaders decide to scrap the nation’s nuclear program.

Fast forward to November when Sony Pictures had the audacity to ready a comedy — “The Interview” — about a ridiculous plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Sony’s computers were hacked and its secrets pilfered. An FBI investigation identified a sophisticated worm program and traced it, surprise, to North Korea.

Now, we’ve all had to deal with the threat of identity theft, malware and phishing efforts. Mostly, it’s annoying. Occasionally, it can trash a hard drive and vaporize some valuable data. (Note to self: Backup the hard drive.)

And a host of American businesses have been complaining about hacking efforts they believe originate in China.

Faced with a pair of cases that seem to be clear efforts to penalize the kind of free speech we cherish, it’s time to react. It’s time for Washington to accept its responsibility to protect against this form of terrorism as forcefully as it has clamped down on airport security.

To Obama’s credit, he’s been beating the cybersecurity drum for a couple of years. Maybe the Sony case will be enough for Congress to see the light. Maybe the detail of Obama’s proposals will be too onerous or not effective enough. Time will tell.

If one role of government is to do for the people what the individual cannot, then cybersecurity — in fact full Internet regulation — is well within the federal purview. It’s time for action.

But none of that reduces the responsibility of business to protect itself. The rash of domestic for-profit hacking that has befallen major retailers suggests a simpler solution, one routed in spending a few dollars more on prevention both in upgraded credit cards and corporate data security.

Cybersecurity may well be the story of this week. But security in general needs to become a passion here in Las Vegas. The “see something/say something” media blitz that is part of life in the I-95 power corridor needs to be part of life here, too. The urge to speed tourists through McCarran can’t shortcut vigilance. Despite all the casino surveillance, the Strip offers far too many of those “soft targets” terrorists desire.

Las Vegas is simply too attractive a target for all kinds of terrorists to take our security for granted.

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