Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Opposing Internal Forces Sabotage U.S. Cyber Defenses

By Jim McFarlin

Cyberspace isn’t just becoming the 21st century’s dominant platform for life, as noted by Wired editor Ben Hammersley: It’s also becoming this century’s dominant platform for warfare.

As political and military decisions are made to protect and preserve our 21st century way of life, one can’t help but wonder how well informed these decisions will be. Before America can possess national security in the cyberspace era, we must reconcile these three opposing forces:

Physical v. Cyber Military
Our military services are designed, trained and equipped to conduct effective kinetic warfare. Unfortunately, as stated by Cybersecurity and Cyberwarfare author Allan Friedman, “These skills are irrelevant in cyberwarfare.”

At no other time in history have a leading nation’s defense capabilities become so out of synch with the reality of security threats than today. Clearly, 21st century thinking is needed to address 21st century threats.


Security v. Privacy
Fiery debate is raging across America, pitting the personal data needs for national security against the public desire for privacy.

Few realize the battle for personal data is already over. Why? It was never a battle to begin with. Americans hand over vast amounts of personal information on a daily basis to financial institutions, online retailers, and social media sites, to name just a few, freely and willingly, seemingly unconcerned with the very real possibility of cybertheft.

The receiving institutions have wide-ranging uses for our personal data. A just-released study of social media use of personal media by the London School of Economics stated that with its vast data collection capabilities, “Facebook has been transformed from a public space to a behavioral laboratory.” Enough said.


Communications: Technology v. Policy
An understanding of the capabilities of today’s technological advances belongs, truly, to the young. America’s leaders are not of that generation and thus lack an understanding of the implications of deploying cyber-based technologies.

The fear of unexpected political and retaliatory consequences makes it all too easy for indecision to rule the day, resulting in powerful cyberdefense technologies searching for a purpose and national cyber defense policy in slow motion.


Where does this lead?

The threats facing the way of life in the United States are as diverse as cyberspace itself with a distribution among opponents as never before seen. With America’s pervasive, Internet-based lifestyle, the cybersecurity decisions our leaders make will shape our lives of well beyond the world of computers.

Unless the three issues discussed above are addressed soon, decisions made to protect our way of life in the 21st century will be flawed, misdirected, and half-hearted, at best.


("Chess" image: Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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