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AT&T data breach is par for the course | #cybercrime | #computerhacker


The recent data breach at AT&T is just more evidence that our national cybersecurity situation is broken. Consumers will continue to be victimized until we find a global solution.

Last weekend, Dallas-based AT&T reported that personal data from about 73 million of its current and former customers had been leaked onto the dark web. It wasn’t the first time. The company suffered a similar attack in 2021. Verizon and T-Mobile have also been targeted. So have Dallas County, the city of Dallas, appraisal districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties, the North Texas Municipal Water District and other important institutions. In fact, leaders of large organizations in the private and public sectors tell us that cybercrime, particularly ransomware, is just part of doing business now.

And yet, there seems to be no strategy for flipping the incentives to deter cybercrime or more effectively prosecute it. Business leaders are focused on prevention (things like training employees not to fall for phishing scams) or recovery (things like ensuring data is backed up) but not on exposing and stopping bad actors. That means the cybercrime environment is a little like families saying, with a shrug, “Well, we lock our doors and keep enough cash for a ransom, but other than that we can’t do much about kidnapping.”

That’s not acceptable. Password reminders and backup disks aren’t the solution to a global crime industry worth $1.5 trillion annually, according to Bromium.

A year ago, a White House report said essentially the same thing: “Today, end users bear too great a burden for mitigating cyber risks.”

One small but critical piece of that report called for diplomatic efforts aimed at “leveraging international cooperation to disrupt the ransomware ecosystem and isolate those countries that provide safe havens for criminals.”

Many industry publications list America’s top political adversaries among the world’s most active hotbeds for cybercriminals: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea. India and Brazil also make some of those lists.

Meanwhile, the country with the most victims by far is America. According to a cybersecurity report from BlackBerry, 65% of all the world’s cyberattacks were aimed at the U.S. in the last quarter of 2023.

All the phishing training in the world isn’t going to stop attacks like the one AT&T suffered until the rule of law extends around the world and incentives are realigned to discourage cybercrime.

There is little we can do to stop criminals in China or Russia, many of them likely state-sponsored. But the federal government can make sure the global community knows about the worst offenders and organize law-respecting nations to isolate them from the global economy they disrupt.

Cybersecurity is an issue as small as changing your email password and as large as global diplomacy. Every link in between has to work.

We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and submit your letter here. If you have problems with the form, you can submit via email at letters@dallasnews.com

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