James Bamford is a writer and documentary producer specializing in intelligence and national security issues. His most recent book, his third on the National Security Agency, is Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA, From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Because the new cyber czar will have neither a checkbook nor direct access to President Obama, the role will be more analogous to a traffic cop than a czar.
The person who does have both the presidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ear and an enormous war chest is Secretary of Defense Gates. While todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spotlight is on the civilian side of cyberdefense, the real battle for control over cyberspace is taking place behind cipher-locked doors at the Pentagon.
In addition, we are seeing the start of the usual hype attacks Ã¢â‚¬â€ dire warnings by anomalous government officials Ã¢â‚¬â€ that always accompany the creation of a new euphemistic Ã¢â‚¬Å“war,Ã¢â‚¬Â such as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“warÃ¢â‚¬Â on drugs and the Ã¢â‚¬Å“warÃ¢â‚¬Â on terrorism. Cyberwar is a real threat and it need not be hyped
Arms Control in Cyberspace
Ron Deibert is the director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the co-founder of the Information Warfare Monitor report, and one of the principal investigators and a co-author of the GhostNet study investigating alleged Chinese cyberespionage.
The president acknowledges the globally interconnected character of cyberspace in detail. But curiously there is not even a strategic vision, much less a blueprint, for how the United States will work to protect global networks as part of its own security.
Indeed, the biggest black hole Ã¢â‚¬â€ likely to remain as such Ã¢â‚¬â€ concerns U.S. offensive operations in cyberspace, which presumably include everything from denial of service attacks to targeted malware to Web 2.0 psychological operations.
I rather naively hoped today would have been President ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Eisenhower moment, an opportunity to lay out a grand strategic vision for Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bits for PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â (or maybe an Ã¢â‚¬Å“Open Net InitiativeÃ¢â‚¬Â?) and take leadership in swiftly controlling weapons in cyberspace worldwide. Instead, it is almost certain (and it is among the worst kept secrets) that a stamp of approval is forthcoming for the PentagonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plans to fight and win wars in cyberspace.
Undoubtedly the move will trigger an escalation of attack strategies and incidences from adversaries, including Russia and China, who will see the U.S. policy as a ratcheting of threats and a legitimization of such tactics. And we can expect more debilitating attacks on Websites and services, contracted out to third parties to muddy attribution issues and allow for plausible deniability.
TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement does nothing to explain how to secure against the chaos unleashed by that threat. Ultimately the assurance of security for every nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s critical infrastructure must include an international dimension that preserves the openness of global cyberspace.