Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Cyber-[fill in the blank] tops list of federal priorities

Am I the only one, or are we at a little bit of odds-and-ends over what we are supposed to be doing in the cyber realm? Are we preparing for cyber war, are we gearing up for cyber diplomacy, or is fighting cybercrime our motivation? Or are we looking at all three -- or something else?

(I swear this will not turn into a blog about cyberthis-n-that, but it’s where a lot of the juicy stuff seems to be, right now.)

Soon to be the new head of the military’s Cyber Command, and current director of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen Keith Alexander apparently told Congress that we should be prepared to fight cyberwar even when we don’t know who it is we are fighting because, well, that’s just the way it is.

In a series of clear-as-mud answers to written Senate questions obtained by the Associated Press, Alexander said that, although it will be difficult for the military to gain superiority in cyberspace, that goal is nevertheless “realistic.”

Not so fast on the cyber war track, at least according to Christopher Painter, President Obama’s senior director for cybersecurity. Speaking at a conference in Germany, and as reported by Technology Review, Painter believes fighting cybercrime should come first.

The dominant threat right now is the criminal threat, he said, and it’s a far more serious one than that posed by cyberwar.

And then just a few days ago we read that, at least according to a bill put forth by Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.), we should all be concerned about cyber diplomacy. The bill would direct the secretary of state to establish a strategy for engaging the world’s players in cyberspace and cybersecurity. The international community should consider “a multilateral framework on cyber warfare that would create shared norms for cyber conduct.”

So, what is it? Is cyber diplomacy the precursor to everything, with the threat of cyber war as the stick we shake to giddy things along? Are we, in fact, already deep into cyber war? Or is that just a cover for the real cyber threat of cybercrime? Or maybe it’s all three? A cybertroika, if you will.

Excuse me. I feel a headache coming on.

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 at 7:27 PM


Reader Comments

Thu, Apr 15, 2010 Concerned in Virginia

...and, when the "Cybercriminals" take out our national computer systems, and they eventually WILL, the problem will solve itself! However, you will not longer be able to "friend" your agency with some nefarious sociopath from a country with a name you cannot even begin to pronounce.

Thu, Apr 15, 2010 Bethesda, MD

Brain - Here are a couple of 'pills' to ease your well-justified headache! “Cyber” anything is simply doing ‘it’ via networks so you can pretty much use the term for anything/everything given we have network enabled (or have the potential to execute in a virtual mode) most functions/activities that historically have been executed at separate, disjointed, non-enterprise and non-global levels. Now the world has the challenge to establish international global standards (architectural, legal, regulatory, etc.) for network-enabled functions/activities in order to protect the innocent and still get the bad guys. Now THAT’S going to be painful and diplomatically challenging because the USA is not in control – we’re just one of the pack. It does become rather confusing when laypersons (government and congress) throw up/out new and/or different usages – especially given they probably haven’t a clue what they’re saying (but it sure sounds cool)!

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