Securing Cyberspace-the Government vs. the private sector

There were 2 conferences yesterday addressing cybersecurity. One was the National Cyber Security Summit in Santa Clara and the other was a smaller event in DC. While I was not in attendance, I did speak with a couple of people who participated in the events. The takeaway is that 85% of the critical infrastructure in the US is owned and controlled by the private sector. The other 15% is the government. While security has gotten better over the last few years, there are still some major holes in the system. There is a classic standoff right now as the government wants the private sector to take control of securing their networks and data while the private sector says why bother when the government's infrastructure is not even secure. For example, if cyber terrorists took down critical DNS systems, whether or not the private sector secures its infrastructure is moot as the Internet will have massive troubles. Some in the private sector also alluded to the fact that Chief Security Officers do not have enough control as most are only VPs who report to CIOs who sometimes report to CFOs. If CSOs have no real control over budget, then how can they really effectuate change? The government, on the other hand, is threatening to take action and impose mandates for securing private infrastructure. The government wanted to give the private sector the chance to organize itself and develop its own best practices before it is forced to do so through legislative mandate. To hammer the point home, one official apparently said that the next terrorist attack could be on the information systems of a large financial services institution causing serious economic damage. Despite the warnings, it does not sound like the 2 sides made much progress yesterday. At the end of the day, companies in the private sector are driven by dollars. If these companies feel secure enough already, they are not going to rush out to spend more money for the sake of national cybersecurity. Therefore, my feeling is that Ridge and his team will not get what they want until the private sector feels pain on their bottom line in the form of stiff economic sanctions. That being said, the government has to live up to its end of the bargain and drive security in its 15% of the infrastructure as well, because as Ridge says, all it takes is one hole to compromise national security.

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