Wednesday, August 3, 2011
A Thought Piece on The Cyber Threat
Cybersecurity is an important policy issue, but the alarmist rhetoric coming out of Washington that focuses on worst-case scenarios is unhelpful and dangerous. Aspects of current cyber policy discourse parallel the run-up to the Iraq War and pose the same dangers. Pre-war threat inflation and conflation of threats led us into war on shaky evidence. By focusing on doomsday scenarios and conflating cyber threats, government officials threaten to legislate, regulate, or spend in the name of cybersecurity based largely on fear, misplaced rhetoric, conflated threats, and credulous reporting. The public should have access to classified evidence of cyber threats, and further examination of the risks posed by those threats, before sound policies can be proposed, let alone enacted.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore parallels between the military-industrial complex and the burgeoning cybersecurity industry. As President Eisenhower noted, we must have checks and balances on the close relationships between parties in government, defense, and industry. Relationships between these parties and their potential conflicts of interest must be considered when weighing cybersecurity policy recommendations and proposals.
Before enacting policy in response to cyber threats, policymakers should consider a few things. First, they should end the cyber rhetoric. The alarmist rhetoric currently dominating the policy discourse is unhelpful and potentially dangerous. Next, they should declassify evidence relating to cyber threats. Overclassification is a widely acknowledged problem, and declassification would allow the public to verify before trusting blindly.
They must also disentangle the disparate cyber threats so that they can determine who is best suited to address which threats. In cases of cyber crime and cyber espionage, for instance, private network owners may be best suited and may have the best incentive to protect their own valuable data, information, and reputations. After disentangling threats, policymakers can then assess whether a market failure or systemic problem exists when it comes to addressing each threat. Finally, they can estimate the costs and benefits of regulation and its alternatives and determine the most effective and efficient way to address disparate cyber threats.
Read the entire piece - LOVING THE CYBER BOMB - HERE.