Who Will Protect Cyberspace?

George Gilder
Disco-Tech Blog
June 5, 2009
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President Obama received a Cyberspace Policy Review from cybersecurity experts this week and pledged to create an Office of Cybersecurity Coordinator in the White House.

A federal cybersecurity coordinator may help government agencies better coordinate their responsibilities and authorities and eliminate duplicative or inconsistent efforts.

But most of the networks and computers which power the world’s most dynamic economy and support the strongest military are owned and operated by the private sector, as the cybersecurity experts and the President acknowledged. The private sector has been hard at work improving the reliability of software and building security features into the network.

The importance of the network in combating cyber attacks has largely been overlooked. Network operators eliminate most spam, which, according to Semantech, comprises 90 percent of email. 

Unusual traffic patterns give network operators early warning of worm strikes and distributed denial-of-service attacks. Network operators can divert malicious traffic to scrubbers so it never reaches its intended destination. Networks are the first and possibly the most effective line of defense.

The federal government will not dictate security standards for private companies nor monitor private sector networks or Internet traffic, according to the President. But with new high-level officials there will be a continuing temptation for government to micromanage the dynamic technology, telecommunications and cable sectors.

The President may bemoan the extent of taxpayer investment in cyberspace,

just as we failed in the past to invest in our physical infrastructure – our roads, our bridges and rails – we’ve failed to invest in the security of our digital infrastructure,

but unlike roads, bridges and rails, there are still opportunities for profit in software, hardware and broadband.

The biggest threat to continued private investment in cyberspace may be the President’s oft-repeated support for net neutrality regulation, which would divert investment away from the core of the network. Cybersecurity requires investment throughout the network. The network is an ecosystem in which everyone has an important role to play.

The President’s interest in cybersecurity is a good thing. But the federal government can do more to harm cybersecurity than to promote it.