Obama budget signs cybersecurity as a top priority

Will increased governmental spending be enough to lessen the risks of cyberattacks?

The United States' budget for the 2014 fiscal year will include increased spending on cybersecurity defenses.

On Wednesday, President Obama proposed boosts to the nation's cybersecurity budget to try and protect the U.S. from increasing Internet-based attacks. In addition, the Administration hopes that by placing more money and resources into the hands of researchers, the US will be able to compete in what is now a global cyber arms race.

According to Reuters, the budget proposal calls for additional military "hackers" to sign up as a counter-measure against the threat of cyberattacks originating from countries including China, Russia and Iran.

The Pentagon says that spending on cybersecurity and weapon development will be increased by $800 million -- 21 percent -- bringing the budget to $4.7 billion. The US government plans to cut overall spending for the $3.8 trillion budget 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, by $3.9 billion.

The boost in budget will be spent in a number of ways. The Pentagon wants to expand the "Cyber Command" department, which is a team of military hackers and civilian personel that monitor networks, develop new cyber tools, maintain defenses and conduct digital reconnaissance missions. In addition, money will be poured in to developing new, more effective ways to protect government networks and infrastructure.

Under the 2014 fiscal year budget proposal, the Department of Homeland Security would also help fund cybersecurity research and assist businesses in protecting their networks. The department is asking for $810 million to help protect federal and corporate networks in the finance sector, telecommunications and energy industry. $44 million has been requested in addition to create a network between firms and agencies to share data concerning hackers and cyberthreats.

The US government estimates that American businesses have lost over $400 billion due to cyberattacks.

Last month, the Obama Administration said that cyber warfare is now a more critical issue than terrorism. If the United States has a chance of keeping up with the constant evolution and development of cybercrime tools and methods, then investment has to be a key priority.

It is likely that the increase in spending will also go towards the development of cyberweapons. In a speech last month, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said that intellectual property thefts and the loss of trade secrets is a continual threat from overseas, with "cyber intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale". The Chinese government denies such claims, stating that it has been the victim of cyberattacks from the US, and has dismissed reports that suggest hackers are conducting criminal activities from military buildings in Shanghai.

Separately, the "privacy killer" bill CISPA has won the approval of a congressional committee without amendments to lax privacy controls, which has raised concerns that government agencies will have unfettered access to US citizen data. The House Intelligence committee has adopted the bill by a vote of 18 to 2 after the legislation was debated in private. Amendments requested by Rep. Jan Schakowsky were rejected, but would have required "that companies report cyber threat information directly to civilian agencies, and maintained the long-standing tradition that the military doesn't operate on US soil against American citizens".