The Internal Cybersecurity Struggle Between the Government and Private Industry

October is Cyber Awareness Month, which means that cyber news is in abundance.  However, the cyber issue that continues to gain the most attention is the evolving debate over the nature of the relationship between the federal government and private industry when it comes to cybersecurity.  Should the government be more involved in how private companies handle cybersecurity?  Or should they back away, and allow private companies to make their own decisions when it comes to cybersecurity?  This is the question lurking behind the scenes of many cyber reports hitting the newsstands today.

Take the recent story on the possibility of biometrics replacing passwords as a primary security measure.  The story hit the news after White House cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, made the statement that biometric scanning devices will become the norm for identity confirmation online.  The story was covered by the WashingtonTimes, USAToday, SC Magazine, and Yahoo News.  So what do these recent reports have to do with the current tensions between government and private industry?  The answer lies behind Mr. Daniel’s reasons for making the announcement in the first place.  SC Magazine reported Mr. Daniel stating that passwords are a “terrible” security mechanism, and that organizations should improve on their use of encryption.  This is a perfect example of what appears the be the current administration’s trend for handling the cybersecurity tension with private companies: leave the private industry alone, but make suggestions.  Is this the best way to balance the interests of these two sectors of society?  Or should the government be more involved in regulating the industry’s cybersecurity measures?

According to a Bloomberg report, some feel that the number one thing the government can do is get out of the way.  The report quotes Ajay Banga, the Chief Executive Officer of MasterCard, who is pushing for the government to eliminate legal barriers to sharing information and move away from a posture that blames companies for cyber attacks.  On the other hand, according to a WashingtonTimes report, there are concerns inside the White House that almost all private companies when left to their own devices have a habit of not paying enough attention to cybersecurity threats.  Nevertheless, the report also notes that as of yet, the Obama administration has been reluctant to push legislation that would require private companies to take any specific cybersecurity measures.  In fact, according to a USAToday report, the Obama administration has given up trying to pass one big cybersecurity bill, and is opting to break up the legislation into bite-size chunks that lawmakers are more likely to approve.

There are also pragmatic reasons for looking outside legislation for potential solutions.  The WashingtonTimes report goes on to quote Mr. Daniel: “the speed of regulation does not move at the speed of technology” and thus the government has to be “mindful” that any regulations will probably be outdated by the time they are issued.  In the meantime, the administration has launched a “Cybersecurity Framework,” which the report describes as the “result of a yearlong private-sector led effort to develop a voluntary how-to guide for organizations in the critical infrastructure community to enhance their cybersecurity.”  This “Framework” fits the trend of “suggesting” rather than “requiring” cybersecurity measures to the private industry.

The United States is not alone when it comes to dealing with the cybersecurity tensions between the government and private industry.  SC Magazine recently reported on the “mutual suspicion” between police and the private sector in the UK when it comes to issues of cybersecurity.  For the full report, click here.

President Barack Obama believes cyber terrorism is one of the biggest threats to national security and says the White House is bracing for a possible doomsday scenario if hackers can successfully penetrate government and business computer systems, the FOX Business Network reported.  Will the current balance of control between the government and private industry over cybersecurity provide Americans will adequate protection from a cyber attack?  Only time will tell.




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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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