Speaking at an event in New York City, Mr. Pence criticized former President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity policies and suggested they allowed hackers to carry out attacks witnessed under the Trump administration’s watch, including the 2017 Equifax breach and operations blamed on foreign state-sponsored hackers.
Americans “demand and deserve the strongest possible defense, and we will give it to them,” Mr. Pence said at a summit held by the Department of Homeland Security. “But sadly, previous administrations have let the American people down when it came to cyber defense.
“At the outset of this administration, it became clear from early on: In a very real sense, we inherited a cyber-crisis,” Mr. Pence continued. “The last administration all but neglected cybersecurity, even though the digital threats were growing more numerous and more dangerous by the day.”
Mr. Pence made the remarks directly after citing several successful cyberattacks suffered by U.S. victims since Mr. Trump took office, including the Equifax breach that compromised the personal information of over 140 million Americans, as well as the WannaCry ransomware worm that infected approximately 200,000 devices in 150 countries in May 2017, allegedly after being unleashed by North Korean hackers, according to U.S. officials.
The vice president said the Obama administration “chose silence and paralysis over strength and action” regarding cybersecurity.
“Make no mistake about it, those days are over,” Mr. Pence said, adding that the Trump administration has requested $15 billion “to secure America’s cyber frontiers.”
His comments came roughly two weeks after Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, warned that foreign hackers are routinely targeting the nation’s digital computer systems and could potentially wage a “crippling cyberattack on our critical infrastructure.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said during a separate discussion at Tuesday’s event that her agency has created a new office, National Risk Management Center, dedicated to defending critical infrastructure components from hackers.
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