It used to be that cybersecurity was something we talked about, but took for granted. Now, we’re seeing so many articles and warnings these days about cybersecurity. I think this is more than just hype. We are at a precipice, where cyberspace is essential to each and every one of us.
Here are some recent examples of major reviews in this area:
- The White House released its 60-days Cyberspace Policy Review on May 29, conducted under the auspices of Melissa Hathaway, the Cybersecurity Chief at the National Security Council; and the reports states: “Cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century…the nation’s approach to cybersecurity over the past 15 years has failed to keep pace with the threat."
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th President wrote in a December 2008 report: “America’s failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration…It is a battle we are losing.”
Cyberspace is becoming a more dangerous place as the attacks against it are growing. Federal Computer Week, June 2009, summarized the threat this way:
“Nation states are stealing terabytes of sensitive military data, including some of the most advanced technology. Cybercrime groups are taking hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts and using some of that money to buy weapons that target U.S. soldiers. The attacks are gaining in sophistication and the U.S. defenses are not keeping up.”
Reviewing the possibilities as to why this is happening: Have we dropped our guard or diverted resources or knowhow away from cybersecurity in a tight budgetary environment and now have to course correct? Or, have our adversaries become more threatening and more dangerous to us?
I believe that the answer is neither. While our enemies continue to gain in sophistication, they have always been tenacious against us and our determination has never wavered to overcome those who would threaten our freedoms and nation. So what has happened?
In my view the shift has to do with our realization that technology and cyberspace have become more and more vital to us and underpins everything we do--so that we would be devastated by any serious disruption. As the Cyberspace Policy Review states definitively: “The globally-interconnected digital information and communications infrastructure known as “cyberspace” underpins almost every facet of modern society and provides critical support for the U.S economy, civil infrastructure, public safety, and national security.”
We rely on cyberspace in every facet of our lives, and quite honestly, most would be lost without the connectivity, communications, commerce, productivity, and pleasure we derive from it each and every day.
The result is that we now have some serious “skin in the game”. We have something to lose--things that we deeply care about. Thus, we fear for our safety and survival should something bad happen. We think consciously or subconsciously how would we survive without the technology, Internet, and global communications that we have come to depend upon.
Let’s think for a second:
What if cyberspace was taken down or otherwise manipulated or controlled by hostile nation states, terrorists, or criminals?
Would there be a breakdown in our ability to communicate, share information, and learn? Would there be interruptions to daily life activities, disruptions to commerce, finance, medicine and so forth, concerns about physical safety or “accidents”, risks to critical infrastructure, and jeopardy to our ability to effectively protect ourselves and country?
The point here is not to scare, but to awaken to the new realities of cyberspace and technology dependence.
Safeguarding cyberspace isn’t a virtual reality game. Cyberspace has physical reality and implications for all of us if we don’t protect it. Cyberspace if a critical national asset, and we had better start treating it as such if we don’t want our fear to materialize.