Deputizing a Cyber Posse

“Since the time of Wyatt Earp, through the fighting of drug cartels in modern Mexico, there has been a recognized need in times of great societal imbalance or where specialized expertise is needed, for government to commission the support of the citizenry,” reports a recent Forbes’ article recommending the commission of a Cyber Posse. As a Nation, we have already turned to private enterprise to establish a cooperative environment to fight the collective risk of cyber-attacks, and we have done that through “public-private partnerships” or “PPPs.” However, according to the article, as a result of the current debate over the role of government and society, and security functions that many view as inherently governmental, the current framework of PPPs lack clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The article outlines the weaknesses of the current PPP framework and suggests a potential solution: deputizing a cyber posse.  The idea of a cyber posse might seem radical, but it is not a new idea.  Click here for a 2012 Crossroads blog that discusses the various roles of the private sector in cyber security.

There is ample proof that the current PPP structure is not working. In the summer of 2014, the Nation was hit with what the article deems an “onslaught” of point-of-sale (POS) attacks due to the thriving online black market known as the “Darknet.” According to the article, the rising supply and demand for stolen payment card information and full identity theft has hindered the progress of law enforcement. When law enforcement is able to shut down a store on the “Darknet,” another quickly takes its place. Law enforcement alone is not equipped to fight this growing battle. The article suggests that our current strategy, which is ill-equipped to fight against the demands of the black market, is at odds with our Nation’s core beliefs and values as a capitalist country that appreciates market forces. As a result, the cyber threat is our Nation’s number one security threat because it is a destabilizing force that undermines our Nation’s competitive advantage and our economic wealth. Additionally, the article notes that certain thresholds prevent many prosecutions when there is insufficient pecuniary loss or when the severity of the crimes does not stir enough concern.

Our current PPP framework fails to take advantage of the specialized expertise already developed within our private industry, specifically amongst the growing number of cyber intelligence firms. Instead of taking advantage of these firms, the current PPP framework “is not a partnership but rather a stiff arm,” reports Forbes. The government treats information shared by these firms as they would an anonymous “tip” to 911, according to the article, ignoring the cost and resources spent for the firms to gather the valuable intelligence information in the first place. Additionally, the incentive to produce information merely as a ‘good citizen’ is lost when “the sharing firm has no assurance or influence that the intelligence will be acted upon in a productive way,” reports Forbes. What does the article recommend? The government needs to develop a framework for PPPs which allows a working relationship between the government and these groups, rather than their current strategy of developing ad hoc relationships between private citizen cyber experts and law enforcement agents.

This is not the first time the government has faced the dilemma of balancing government and societal interests when it comes to security. The article compared the current debate with a related debate that occurred after 9/11 which challenged the government’s approach to terrorism, spurring the creation of Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISAC). The article suggests we fashion similar lines of organization and operation to resolve the current debate over security functions. According to the article, this can be done through a cyber posse. This is not necessarily an outside-the-box idea: the article makes comparisons to current private entities who engage in law-related enforcement functions, such as private investigators and car repo servicers. Moving forward, the article recommends we use the existing framework of post-911 ISACs, with the addition of INFAGARD to ensure a role for law enforcement. The potential licensing regime the article suggests would place the government in charge of setting limits and providing oversight for the PPPs, with the private sector providing many of the resources.

PPPs need a solid procedural framework that provides operational security and supports protection of international legal standards. Specifically, the article outlines the following guideline for creating this “cyber posse”:

To enable the scaling necessary to combat cybercrime, community group members of the DHS-affiliated Regional Consortium Coordinating Council (RC3) could serve a role in the regulatory regime that would be necessary to provide certification of private sector firms engaged in Cyber Posse activities. A framework must be established and maintained to draw limits on certain conduct, provide guidance for actions with and by private sector actors, and manage appropriate controls on cyber operations.

Is it time to commission a cyber posse? For the full Forbes’ article, click here.




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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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