Cyberspace is not a War Zone
"Cyberwar" it's an all-to-easy hook to reach for when looking to describe high profile electronic assaults against U.S. property, either public or private. Refrains echo from Congress, the Pentagon and corporate boardrooms about the need to prepare for the "battlefield" for a cyberwar that many believe is already at hand.
"We disagree," says an Op-Ed in Wired's Threat Level blog, written by Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute and DHS Senior Counselor Bruce McConnell. "Cyberspace is not a war zone."
Lute and McConnell go on to present a clear-eyed assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces when it comes to defending its critical infrastructure in cyberspace, while at the same time trying to ensure that those defenses don't overstep and end up squelching openness, free expression and innovation.
Lute and McConnell write:
Conflict and exploitation are present there, to be sure, but cyberspace is fundamentally a civilian space – a neighborhood, a library, a marketplace, a school yard, a workshop – and a new, exciting age in human experience, exploration and development. Portions of it are part of America’s defense infrastructure, and these are properly protected by soldiers. But the vast majority of cyberspace is civilian space.
Our message is simple: cyberspace is vital to the American way of life, and DHS is positioning itself to do everything it can to build a cyber-ecosystem that is secure. Yet, we know that we cannot do all that needs doing. Responsibility for cybersecurity begins with each individual user and extends out to every business, school, and other civic and private enterprise. We believe in the vision – indeed, in the imperative, of an open internet. Yet, it cannot be an internet that is open but not secure, and we most assuredly do not want an internet that is secure but not open. We also believe that we – all of us – must move now, deliberately and thoughtfully, to realize this vision – a vision of confidence, not control.
Viewing cyberspace as a civilian space, in contrast to a war zone, helps ensure that a super secret agency like NSA does not control the federal cybersecurity effort as it relates to securing civilian critical infrastructure. This promotes transparancy and accountability to the public for cybersecurity efforts that could impact communications privacy. We're not going to agree with everything DHS wants to do on cybersecurity, but the view of cyberspace outlined in the DHS op-ed referenced here is a good place it to start.