Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes announced Thursday he has been chosen to head a committee on a national association of sheriffs.

Barnes will chair the intelligence commanders committee for the Major County Sheriffs of America organization.

Barnes said he hoped to especially focus on cyber security with the rash of ransomware attacks on corporations that crippled the fuel and meat packing industries.

The committee works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on a variety of threats to the nation, Barnes said.

Barnes told City News Service he is “fortunate enough to be the only sheriff in Southern California with a fusion center,” a collaborative homeland security effort of local law enforcement agencies that focuses on terrorist activity.

Cyber attacks are a concern, but not the only one, Barnes said.

“It’s not just about cyber attacks,” Barnes said. “That’s one of the rising risks. This is also about homeland security issues, domestic violence, extremists, drug trafficking trends. It’s an all-encompassing threat horizon on a national platform.”

Fusion centers, Barnes said, help “make sure any intelligence gathered is shared across a national platform… to make sure we’re all equally aware of what the threats are and how significant they are.”

Cyber attacks are “mostly foreign actors,” and can be successfully deflected by better educating computer users, Barnes said.

“It’s often times someone allowing it in,” Barnes said of malware. “Not maliciously, but opening something that takes over a system.”

Another area of focus for his committee is the dark web, which is becoming increasingly more difficult for law enforcement to patrol as criminals develop more sophisticated ways of encrypting information such as drug transactions and the distribution of child pornography, Barnes said.

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