BISMARCK, North Dakota — Minot Daily News, Minot, June 20, 2015
Horrible breach of security
No wonder it took government officials so long to admit the gravity of a computer security breach a few weeks ago. It may be the most significant intelligence failure of all time.
Though hackers gained access to personal information about hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of federal employees to use in a massive identity theft scheme, that success pales in comparison to what else they obtained.
Initially, officials said only that a major cyber-attack had occurred and a substantial amount of personal information on some government employees had been stolen. The records, including names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers, is all the hackers need to steal an enormous sum from banks, credit card companies, etc.
A few days later, a union representing many government workers revealed what officials had not, that data on virtually all federal employees was compromised.
Still later, at the end of last week, the alarming full truth came out. It was admitted that among files stolen by the hackers was a very special category of records — on employees and operatives of U.S. intelligence services. Again, all of them may have been involved.
Those files are much more detailed than information collected on other government employees. For purposes of checking on potential security risks, intelligence agencies want to know a lot about those doing classified work. Very sensitive, comprehensive information on individuals and their families is included.
It appears to be just the kind of information a foreign spy agency might use to compromise American intelligence operatives.
And the hackers may be from the Chinese government, though anyone with the information would find willing buyers flush with cash all over the world.
It is bad enough that government computer security is so weak that all federal employees now must fear identity theft. But giving away information that could do enormous harm to national security is much worse.
How could this happen? A more worrisome question is whether Americans can have any confidence an even worse breach of cyber security will not occur.
The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, June 21, 2015
Joint effort needed to improve health
A recent health survey in Bismarck found binge drinking and obesity as major problems in the community. The findings shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
Bismarck, and the state have been fighting these problems for years. North Dakota has ranked at the top, or near the top, in the past for teen binge drinking. It's not a ranking we shout "We're No. 1" about. In fairness the state hasn't ignored the problem. Officials have devoted time and money to developing and implementing programs to stop these killer health problems.
Binge drinking and obesity weren't the only problems identified by the Community Health Needs Assessment Survey. More than 33 percent of people older than 50 haven't been screened for colon cancer; 7 percent of the population is diabetic; 50 percent don't get enough exercise; and Alzheimer's deaths are higher than the national average.
Another survey, the 2015 Greater Bismarck-Mandan Community Health Needs conducted in April by the North Dakota State University Center for Social Research, confirmed many of the other survey results.
Many of the health problems are related, with heavy drinking leading to or aggravating other health issues. Being overweight also makes it difficult to deal with other health problems. However, it's not a hopeless situation.
The binge drinking numbers among teens and adults have been declining. The problem hasn't been solved but there are indications that the message is getting through to North Dakotans. In an editorial last year, we noted that the state has a long history of alcohol abuse, and a culture developed where too much drinking became accepted. A culture that some argue goes back to statehood remains hard to break. Signs of progress don't mean we can let up on our efforts to combat out-of-control drinking.
It does mean we should be able to identify what's working and put our resources into those efforts. Not all the strategies are going to win acceptance, and for a strategy to be successful, it must have support. It's imperative that everyone works together to overcome these health problems.
Only then can we have a healthier community.