And until now I was only worried about hackers trying to get into my bank account. I learned yesterday that there are 6 categories of cyber threat perpetrators – at least according to one expert at the Potomac Institute, a policy think tank that studies cyber security, among other things technological. Select nation states (read that China, Russia, Iran?), organized terrorist groups, cyber-social ‘malefactors’ (such as the group Anonymous), hooligans, hactivists, and just plain old criminals all pose cyber threats, each with different motivations, capabilities and resources. Kind of makes me miss the good old days of the Mob, which at least was predictable and bounded.
The august panel at today’s Cyber Symposium were decidedly hawkish, but while I didn’t agree with a lot of their politics, I absolute respect their grasp of the issues and their passion around dealing with the threat. By the time it was over, my world view was somewhat changed. Risks are everywhere – from the technology supply chain to the memory stick in someone’s pocket to our unsecured energy grid. Life as we depend on it could come to a screeching halt in less than a second, if the right malware is released into the system. As with other forms of terrorism, you can’t let this stop you from living your life, but more aggressive approaches to this situation are indeed warranted.
While I listened to this group of Washington-insider defense experts debate what policy action is required from which branches of government, I was struck by an over-riding thought: this is not a traditional defense situation, and Washington is NOT going to solve this problem. Industry might. It is the ICT industry who innovates, who develops the technology in the first place (albeit often from publicly funded basic research), and who has the unencumbered agility to try different things. Besides, the private sector is concerned with its own security, so is already working on these issues.
Yes, industry will expect and deserve to be paid, but heads of U.S. corporations are also Americans, and I’m just not that cynical yet to think they wouldn’t be willing to collaborate on helping protect the country and the national infrastructure – which by the way affects their customers too.
Yesterday, the digital divide was so glaringly apparent to me – the one betweenWashington and the Silicon Valley. Government and industry are going to have to get together in a hands-on practical way about this issue. Or not… Stay alert, people. And keep your Norton up to date.