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Obama's Int'l Strategy for Cyberspace: A Really Bad Idea

Here Comes Another Bloated, Ineffective Government Goat Rope

The Obama administration has announced something called "The International Strategy For Cyberspace." It's being presented as something that's reasonable and reflective of a technology-savvy administration that understands the big cyber-issues and what to do about them.

We should all be very, very dubious of its claims.

Here are the problems, as I see them:

  • Use of the word "International." This is at once implies that the United States knows what's best for the world, and plans to adopt a sort-of Monroe Doctrine for all of cyberspace. This is precisely the sort of overweening obnoxiousness that undercuts the moral high ground out from under the US.

  • The bellicose words used by Howard Schmidt, the White House's "Cyber-Security Coordinator," who serves at the pleasure of the President. He started by talking about insecure credit cards and finished by noting the US promise to use military force in response to cyber-hostility. Missiles for MasterCards?

  • A strategy that calls for no fewer than five Cabinet-level departments to get involved - State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Justice. Is there any chance of this turning into a big, muddled government goat rope that marks everyone as a potential perp yet is powerless to stop real criminals?

  • The presumed acquiescence of Congress. The Bush Administration War on Terror proved, if nothing else, that Republicans and Democrats rise equally to the occasion of civil liberties intrusions if they can spend a lot of money in the process. This new Obama Administration strategy, an ostensible War on Cyber-Terror, will no doubt receive equal support.

Initial reports say that another part of the strategy has the US  "urging" countries to sign the Cybercrime Convention treaty, something dreamed up by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg 10 years ago. The US has signed it; Russia and China have not. The apparent goal here is to put pressure on China to stop pirating software and on Russia to crack down on its virus-writers.

The inevitable human rights angle comes into play as well, something I view as a very weak position coming from a country that still holds unclassified prisoners in Gitmo, enforces a Patriot Act that keeps my local library from keeping a record of the books I read, and still considers my 80-year-old mother a security threat when she flies.

The onerous domestic aspect of this new strategy is to "invite" utilities and financial services companies to report and rank the cybersecurity threats they face. This is nothing but another slippery slope to that damnable Intnernet kill switch idea. I'm sure companies would be glad to cooperate if they didn't have this nagging fear that the government's goal is control, not remedy.

The one useful component of this strategy are the announced efforts to protect the government's networks. But one would hope that they already have a lot of smart people all over this, right? Why announced a new, bloated, multi-jurisdictional strategy? This thing will have meetings just to determine when to have meetings.

President Obama just proved that even very hard, cancerous problems can be erased with a clear mission, tactical focus, and a team of Navy SEALs. How I wish he would take the same approach with specific cyber-problems, rather than introduce this overwrought, overweight cyberspace strategy.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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