Canada is one of America’s greatest allies and its largest trading partner. Yet within a split second, it could freeze US financial systems, disable key military technologies, or halt any number of government agencies. How? A few rogue actors launching a cyber attack from Canada. Such is the nature of asymmetric threats where the words “border” and “allies” are no longer relevant. This possibility was outlined by the Deputy Defense Secretary, William J. Lynn, while in Canada following his speech to the Conference on Defense Associations.
The internet is an indispensable tool in everyday life, used in everything from simple online communications to major bank and business transactions. It should come as little surprise that it has become a target for attacks. Given the high level of interconnectedness between the US and Canada, cooperation on the issue of cybersecurity is undeniably needed. Accordingly, President Obama has made cybersecurity one of the top issues of his national security agenda. In his National Security Strategy (PDF), the President outlined the importance of working with other nations to develop a coordinated response in the case of such an attack. Nevertheless, Obama’s strategy goes little beyond this elementary concept.
The framework for what is needed in US-Canadian cooperation to some extent already exists in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD…yes, it does more than track Santa). Despite Canada’s minimal resources currently devoted to the issue, this mechanism would facilitate information sharing as well as the coordination of activities between the US and Canadian forces in the realm of cybersecurity. At a time when the US is engaged in two major combat operations overseas, ensuring the safety of our defense forces is of the utmost importance. Such an entity, while just the first step in an ongoing battle, is a vital asset in combating one of the greatest security threats of the 21st century.
Ricky Trotman is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm