Securing Cyberspace.

Yesterday, the Bipartisan Policy Center ran a "cyber attack" exercise designed to demonstrate what it would look like if cell phone networks were attacked, Internet resources were damaged, and portions of the U.S. electrical grid brought low. Former White House officials and national security experts like Michael Chertoff and John Negroponte participated. A few points:

  • You should really go read James Fallows' recent piece on the threat China poses on the cyber-front, which bleeds into how unprepared the U.S. is to cope with an attack on its technological infrastructure. The consensus of experts, writes Fallows, is "that only a large-scale public breakdown would attract political attention to the problem." Here's hoping that a mock breakdown helps to focus interest.
  • Fallows' colleague Marc Ambinder focuses his remarks on the question of "cyber hygiene." Companies have incentive to secure their assets to the degree that
    it benefits them, but their country might require network security that goes above and beyond corporate needs. So it's not enough to lock your doors; you need to fund a decent police force. Former acting cyber security chief Melissa Hathaway reportedly stepped down because she couldn't convince the White House economic team that private entities should be required to secure their networks.
  • Okay, not a point as much as an anecdote from Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies that cautions against underestimating just how bad we've been in the past on this stuff:
  • Gore urged the President to tell us something that the two highest leaders in the land clearly found funny. "Okay, okay," Clinton agreed. "I needed relative certainty that the missiles had hit and none of you guys could give me that...so I called CNN...they didn't have anybody in Baghdad tonight, but their cameraman in their Jordan bureau had a cousin or some relative who lived near the intelligence headquarters, so they called him." Most of the room looked horrified. "The cousin said, yeah, the whole place blew up. He was certain...so I figured we had relative certainty."

    Yesterday's "Cyber ShockWave" event will be televised on CNN on Feb. 20 and 21, so set your DVRs.

    -- Nancy Scola

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