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Lieu, Hurd school House colleagues on cyberhygiene, defense

Former computer science majors Lieu and Hurd wrote to their U.S. House of Representatives colleagues, urging improved awareness of cyber risks and cyberhygiene.

Two U.S. lawmakers wrote to their colleagues in the House of Representatives in an attempt to raise awareness and to educate House representatives and their staffs on how to improve their cyberhygiene and defend against the latest wave of cyberattacks.

Warning their colleagues of the "ease with which foreign governments, criminal syndicates and everyday hackers can access your smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop," Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) offered a half dozen guidelines for protecting data and communications. The advice is notable, given the recent controversy over proposed encryption legislation. The two urged their colleagues to use encryption and encrypted messaging apps as part of their cyberhygiene and to protect themselves against attacks.

"Encrypting your voice and text data will go a long way toward mitigating the various risks we have identified," the two wrote. "There are a number of easy-to-use applications that have end-to-end encryption for mobile communications. These apps will encrypt both your voice and text messaging data. While this method is not foolproof, the use of these apps constructs a huge barrier to your communications being deciphered."

"The chief information officer of the House of Representatives has worked tirelessly to protect our offices from millions of cyberattacks every year," Lieu and Hurd wrote. "But there are steps that members of Congress and their staffs can take each day to better protect our sensitive data."

The letter comes just two weeks after all of Congress was given a warning over the threat of ransomware. Lieu and Hurd are both former computer science majors who have previously served in the national security field. Lieu's office provided SearchSecurity with a copy of the letter.

The two offered suggestions for better cybersecurity, including adopting two-factor authentication; using complex passwords; installing and using antivirus software; using encryption to protect data, as well as to protect voice and text communications; connecting only to trusted networks and backing up data.

"The representatives' open letter to peers on Capitol Hill demonstrates that lawmakers are just as conflicted as the public when it comes to the divisive privacy vs. national security debate," said Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Accellion, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

While he said it was good to see members of Congress "acknowledging the serious threat posed by cybercriminals, syndicates and foreign governments," Edholm said "it remains to be seen whether or not these considerations will be incorporated into policymaking. Until then, we need more politicians like Reps. Lieu and Hurd who are willing to extoll the importance of encryption, as well as the potentially dangerous repercussions that come from allowing backdoor access to technology."

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