When it comes to Internet-based threats to our nation and its infrastructure, President Obama seems to get it. In a news conference last week, the President rightly talked about the dangers to the United States from cyber-attack and announced that he would appoint a “cybersecurity coordinator” (yet to be named) who would be in charge of protecting America from such threats.
Obama buttressed his case for defending against cyber-attacks by pointing out that computer systems at federal agencies, notably the Defense Department, have come under attack. He also referenced the threat to our infrastructure, perhaps referring to an April report that cyber-spies from China and Russia had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid, leaving behind dangerous software that could be used to disrupt the system. (See my commentary on this incident here). Not surprisingly, Obama also complained that his own campaign’s systems had been hacked.
So the President is doing what politicians do. He ordered a “top to bottom review,” which confirmed the threat; he said he intends to appoint a cyber-security czar, and of course, he announced a “plan” under which we will ostensibly be well defended.
Obama’s “plan” touches on a number of key points. The first is—now hold on to your hats—that we need a plan, and that plan should enable us to respond to threats in a more organized way than in the past. He also called for stronger “public-private partnerships” on cyber-security. More research and development, as well as increased public awareness of cyber-security issues are also parts of the “plan.”
These sound like well-intentioned goals, but now let us return control of your mind to you so that you can ask the $2 trillion questions: Exactly how will we accomplish those goals? How much will all this cost? You might also be curious about what terms such as “organized,” “public-private partnerships” and “public awareness” actually mean. Ah well, you see, that part of the “plan”—known to the clear-thinking populace as “details”—seems to be a work in progress.
And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with the “plan.” I heard someone say that President Obama still seems to be in campaign mode, whether that be because he can’t stop the 2008 effort or he’s already starting on 2012. And in a campaign speech, all of the president’s dire warnings and fuzzy solutions would be accepted as his general idea of what needs to be done.
Unfortunately for the President, and for us however, a campaign speech isn’t going to do much to help secure our nation’s cyber-infrastructure. Without a real plan that spells out real-world actions, we are no more able to solve this very serious problem than the individual of whom it was said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (That would be The Wizard of Oz, for those of you who weren’t allowed to watch it as kids.)
Bluster and firm-jawed resolve, much as they appeal to our emotions, are not going to get this job done. The disturbing result of what we’ve heard so far is the creation of wild rumors and guesses about what all this means. One fear is that the Senate wants to grant the President unfettered power to throw companies off the Internet for security reasons. The potential for abuse there, especially with a White House that is already meddling in corporate affairs, is staggering.
We can only hope that the President will follow this marvelous campaign sizzle with some actual steak, and that the meal will be a tasty one.
"We're not as prepared as we should be," Obama said in his press conferenc . Amen to that, and the “we” starts with the White House.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.
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