Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., on Monday called for the creation of a cybersecurity “militia” that would help the U.S. bolster its cybersecurity stance, even if it means recruiting people who don’t measure up to traditional military recruiting standards.

“A single, specialized office dedicated to federal cybersecurity, with authority to do white-hat tests of agency security, could attract world-class talent and would spur federal agencies to keep pace in the cyber arms race against hackers,” Whitehouse said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Whitehouse’s speech outlined a host of policy ideas, including setting up an executive-branch office to better educate the public on cyberthreats by declassifying more information related to hacks.

“We need a good storyteller for cyber if our democracy is to function with the right degree of attention to this problem,” he said.

He also broached the controversial issue of whether companies should be allowed to “hack back” against adversaries, which is generally illegal and the sole purview of governments. Policymakers should consider allowing companies to engage in “active defense” of their networks, Whitehouse said.

“We can, with a coalition of willing allies, develop international cybernorms … that set expectations and empower deterrence in cyberspace,” Whitehouse said. “Countries that sponsor cyberattacks against U.S. interests, or who assist, license or shelter those who conduct cyberattacks, should be put on notice that there will be consequences for such actions.”

He added that December’s attack on the electrical grid in Ukraine, which left hundreds of thousands without power, should change how seriously the U.S. views cyber.

“It’s tempting to conclude that our superior American technology would have fended off such an attack, but there is little evidence to support that view,” Whitehouse stated, saying that the more modern technology behind U.S. infrastructure would be even more difficult to fix in the event of a cyberattack.

 

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