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ONLY ON 7: Mike Pompeo talks cybersecurity, visiting Wausau

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick stop in Wausau on Wednesday.

Pompeo was in town visiting with Congressman Tom Tiffany and area business leaders for a roundtable discussion. That roundtable took place at the Jefferson Street Inn.

When he meets the general public, what do they usually ask him about?

“You know I became famous for meeting Chairman Kim (Jong-un, of North Korea), Pompeo said with a laugh. “So, I often get asked about North Korea. So I had the privilege of bringing back three American hostages from there. So, a very special time for me to get to bring three Americans home safely who were in good health, so I get asked about that as well.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is asking for a $1-billion dollar budget to combat cybercrimes. Cybersecurity is a major concern right now. One that the former Secretary of State is familiar with. He says cybersecurity is an ever-increasing risk. We have to find a way to get our systems secure, and the ability to respond. For example, increase the cost or penalties against those who commit these crimes.

“These are happening everyday all across America on a smaller scale,” Pompeo said. “Small companies right here in Wisconsin, I’m sure are being impacted as well. We’ve got to figure out a way to impose cost on those people engaged in this. These are truly attacks on the United States.”

That raises the question, is it more prevalent now, or we just now paying more attention to it?

“So, the idea of behaving lawlessly and collecting ransom isn’t new,” said Pompeo. “What’s new is it’s cost-free, it’s simple. You can do it from around the world and reach into systems in different places. So we have to think about it. We have to develop a new model to protect America from these threats.”

Secretary Pompeo said while it’s the bigger company cyber attacks that are in the headlines, it’s the smaller companies and individuals we have to protect as well in the U.S.

President Biden is making his first international visit since taking office. Among the highlights of his trip will be a summit with Russia President Putin. Pompeo says it’s important for President Biden to be strong in his meeting with Putin.

“What I hope he’ll do is he’ll lay out the things we care about: the Russians have significant nuclear missiles. We need to make sure that we understand what they are doing and we have a systemic way that they don’t use those weapons,’ Pompeo said.

“These ransom attacks are coming from Russian soil, or so we’re told by the FBI, or so it looks like that to me. He needs to make clear that we’re going to hold the Russian government accountable for what’s taking place from their land.”

“And then it needs to be clear, too, to Vladimir Putin that if their are places we can work together we’re prepared to do it. But when you behave badly, when you impose costs on the American people, we will defend American interests with every ounce of energy we have.”

Secretary Pompeo is also a big proponent of becoming energy independent. He says that’s crucial for Wisconsinites and all of the U.S.

“I would tell them allow drilling on federal lands,” if he could speak to anyone in the Biden Administration. “Don’t for a moment think that you’re going to convert to solar energy and eliminate fossil fuels anytime soon. The world is highly dependent, not just cars but the clothes that we wear. The plastics we consume. All have a petroleum base and we need to produce that here in America so we’re not dependent on some other country where they can hold us at risk for our energy needs, for our energy needs at an affordable price.”

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