CEDAR RAPIDS — Two high school students had ideas on how the internet could help the federal government run more efficiently and securely, and they wanted to tell U.S. Rep. Rod Blum about them.
Kennedy High School senior Chloe Leaverton and Jefferson High School senior Koy Ortega presented their ideas Wednesday to the Dubuque Republican — who serves on a House committee that deals with cybersecurity — at Iowa BIG, an initiative-based program in northeast Cedar Rapids where students from area districts can partner with professionals on projects outside of the traditional high school setting.
Leaverton researched and created a presentation on the “internet of things,” the network of software and sensors connected with physical objects and electronic devices that allows them to exchange data.
While the internet of things is used for retail, logistics, transportation, energy efficiency, home security and more, its use by the federal government is spotty, Leaverton said. It could be used more for building security and managing energy use, she noted.
“There are a few federal agencies that are taking advantage of the IoT,” Leaverton said. “The IoT could be used to help the government operate more efficiently and effectively and improve public safety and reduce energy use.”
Blum agreed, saying, for example, it’s possible the internet of things could bring down the cost of health care if more robotic surgeries took place.
“We should get after it shouldn’t we? This is really another revolution, and you’re right at the age to take advantage of it,” Blum told Leaverton. “Wouldn’t it be great to have online where every government dollar is spent? Not that anybody’s going to look at all of it, but where does the money go?
But he said he also was concerned about the amount of personal data collected on individuals.
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Ortega’s presentation centered on cybersecurity, which Blum agreed was a growing focus for the private sector and the federal government.
Cybercrime is the illegal use of technology, which can include hacking, scams, theft and spread of viruses. It can also include devices such as ATM skimmers that allow criminals to steal consumers’ credit and debit card information.
Blum said he’s well aware of that issue after having had his own credit card information compromised multiple times. He also pointed out that the Secret Service has said there are millions of attempts each day to hack government officials’ phones.
“The wars of the future won’t be fought with bullets and bombs, it will be bits and bytes,” Blum said.
Ortega proposed that Congress could do more to tighten cybersecurity by setting a minimum standard of security for all federal departments.
Blum agreed. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of which Blum is a member, does cybersecurity checks of federal department to ensure their systems are up to date and secure.
“It’s like one of these things that’s kind of overlooked until right up when disaster hits. That point’s well-taken,” Blum told Ortega. “Cybersecurity is a big deal. Are we where we need to be? No we are not.”
Folience, The Gazette’s parent company, sponsors Iowa BIG.
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