Think back 20 years ago. What were you doing? Whatever answer you came up with, it probably had nothing to do with the Internet, which was just coming of age. As James Carafano points out in his article in the Washington Examiner today, the discovery a valuable new world brings with it the need to protect that world.
Nearly everything in our lives today is connected to the Internet. You possibly woke up to your iPhone buzzing from an e-mail from your boss and then turned on the lights that are powered by an electrical grid that is intricately connected to the Internet. You needed to transfer money to your checking account, so you quickly jumped on your computer, and a couple minutes later you were out the door. On the way to work, you stopped to get a bite to eat at a restaurant that orders all its food and advertises heavily via the Internet. When you finally got to work, you sat down to a computer and sifted through dozens of e-mails. On your break, you ordered a birthday gift off of eBay or Amazon, and then you searched for and read countless articles for a project you are working on without even moving from your chair.
With so many widespread uses, the Internet is also very hard to defend. There are always going to be holes in security somewhere, and any people who tell you that they know how to fix the problem would probably also have told you that Corzine’s MF Capital was a great buy. Right on cue, members of our government come forward with “comprehensive,” bureaucratic command-and-control cyber security bills.
The Internet is a dynamic environment, and announcing countless new regulations or giving government bodies vast new powers over the Internet flies in the face of that reality. Most crooks and enemies can easily get around these proposed solutions. For example, before the Stop Online Piracy Act could even be voted on, free software was released that would have rendered most of the bill worthless.
Our answer to online security should be one that seeks to match our quick opponents with equally quick, creative solutions. The proposal from Representatives Mike Rogers (R–MI) and Dutch Ruppersburger (D–MD) is a solid start. It establishes the framework for government and private-sector cooperation and better enables our private sector to create new adaptive solutions to fight cyber crime and defend against cyber attacks.
New cyber threats will emerge, and just like in any other conflict, we should not get caught preparing to the fight the last war. Instead, we should give our greatest minds the best opportunity to come up with creative answers to protect this new world.