A recent war game simulating the National Security Council’s response to a cyber attack highlighted the United States’ serious vulnerability to such an attack in an era where it is increasingly important to prepare for the potential consequences of cyber warfare.
The war game, in which several former government officials tried to manage the commercial and economic crash resulting from the collapse of the internet and cell phone service, indicates that the U.S. needs to do more to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, “Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication.”
In the 2008 Annual Threat Assessment, former DNI Mike McConnell also warned that we were unprepared for a cyber attack. In the two years since that statement, several U.S. government agencies and members of the private sector have experienced cyber security attacks.
Jim Carafano and Eric Sayers have recommended that the U.S. create a “cyber security leadership program” to develop the skills necessary to combat this evolving threat. The program should train leaders that understand the cyber environment and can identify potential threats to help reduce vulnerabilities. An understanding of interagency cooperation and partnership between the public and private sectors is also essential to protect against cyber attacks. Carafano and Sayers write: “Cyber-strategic leadership is not a specific technical skill or person, but a set of knowledge, skills, and attributes essential to all leaders at all levels of government and in the private sector.”
Although the U.S. has not paid significant attention to cyber security in the past, recent events, including the recent Chinese attack against Google, have raised awareness in Washington. On February 4, the House easily passed the Cyber Security Enhancement Act, but the Senate counterpart isn’t likely to pass anytime soon.
The House bill mandates an agency-by-agency review of cyber security strategies and skills and establishes a government recruitment program to better equip the U.S. against cyber threats.
However, “Looking for single ‘silver-bullet’ solutions will not work,” argue Carafano and Sayers.
“There is no technology, government policy, law, treaty, or program that can stop the acceleration of competition in the cyber universe.” Even in this new field of warfare, the fact remains that “all national security challenges are a series of actions and counteractions between competitors.”