U.S. government and cyber crime - Statistics & Facts

The increasing digitization of all aspects of modern life has not stopped to exclude the government and with increasing online and data usage, government databases have positioned themselves as a major target for hackers and acts of cyber warfare. According to author Richard Clarke in his book “Cyber War”, cyber warfare has been defined as actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation's computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption. Wider definitions also include non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, companies, political or ideological extremist groups, transnational criminal organizations and hacktivists. In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense published a cyber strategy doctrine that highlights the department’s strategic cyber goals such as building and maintaining forces to conduct cyberspace operations, secure and defend DoD data, be prepared for disruptive and destructive cyber-attacks targeted towards the United States and to integrate cyber options and alliances into plans. In 2015, 77,183 cyber security incidents were reported by federal agencies in the United States, an approximate 10 percent growth from the previous year.


Federal government information technology expenditure in the United States is projected to amount to 81.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2017. The budget sustains and expands on the Administration’s previous work in this area as part of the Digital Ecosystem portion of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP). In 2015, Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) spending accounted for 13.1 billion U.S. dollars or approximately 16.3 percent of total federal IT spending that year. The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is U.S. legislation that defines a comprehensive framework to protect government information, operations and assets against natural or man-made threats. This expenditure has become an increasingly pressing necessity as in 2016, the U.S. government accounted for only 6.6 percent of all data breaches but for 37.9 percent of all exposed records. With more than 191 million compromised records, the December 2015 hack of the U.S. voter database counts as one of the largest online data breaches worldwide. The U.S. public has become increasingly aware of the possibilities and dangers of major government hacks. During a January 2017 survey, the greatest cyber security problem of the U.S. government according to U.S. adults was hacking by foreign governments, followed by the securing of confidential intelligence reports and citizen records. A May 2016 survey revealed that 51 percent of U.S. adults believed that a cyber attack on public infrastructure would probably happen in the next five years. The overall stance of the public was one of confidence - 47 percent of respondents felt the U.S. government was very prepared to prevent cyber-attacks on government agencies.

Hacking by foreign governments was also a prominent issue during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The majority of Democrats believe that the Russian government was responsible for a hack into DNC computers and leaking emails in order to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral process and get Donald Trump elected as president. As of mid-December, voter opinion even went so far as to support a delay of the Electoral College vote until electors were briefed on allegations of Russian hacking but this did not happen. As it stands, the U.S. government has good reason to increase cyber security infrastructure as unsurprisingly, public institutions are also the sector most targeted by cyber espionage.

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