Cyberattacks are on the rise in the United States, targeting everything from fuel pipelines to meat suppliers and hospitals. Experts link the surge of ransomware strikes to the rise of hard-to-trace cryptocurrency and a work-from-home boom that has opened up IT vulnerabilities. President Joe Biden recently signed a national security memorandum to strengthen cybersecurity defenses for critical infrastructure, and the administration is calling on Congress to pass relevant legislation.

In this week's "In Focus SoCal," host Tanya McRae sits down with cybersecurity expert Ara Aslanian, the founder and CEO of Inverselogic to break down some of the recent ransomware attacks.

"Cybercriminals really don't care who they're attacking. We call it kind of 'spray and pray,' where they'll send out hundreds to thousands of phishing e-mails and kind of see who bites," said Aslanian.

Identity theft has also spiked amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with cybercriminals targeting Americans applying for benefits from the government and supplying personal information including social security numbers, date of birth and addresses.

McRae heads inside CSU, San Bernardino's Cybersecurity Center, which is teaching and producing the next generation of the cyber intelligence and security workforce. Tony Coulson, the director of the center, says government agencies and corporations are always asking for more graduates.

"Nationwide, we have a 500,000 person deficit. We have negative unemployment in cybersecurity," Coulson said.

Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, the Chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, joins this week's conversation to discuss consumer protection and privacy in today's digital age. He is authoring AB 587 to shed light on the role of social media in amplifying extreme and dangerous content. The legislation would require leading social media platforms to publicly disclose their efforts to address online hate, disinformation, extremism, harassment and foreign interference.

Gabriel said, "We're mindful of people's free speech protections. We don't want the government censoring certain kinds of speech, but the approach that this bill takes is it says to the social media companies, 'Tell us what you're doing. How are you moderating content?'"

McRae also meets with one Simi Valley man who is living with the consequences of a identify theft case from 15 years ago, including an arrest on a felony fugitive warrant and owing the IRS money for income that he had not made.

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