Grading Obama: C+ Administration Missed Key Opportunities To Civilize Cyberspace

A middling grade because the President’s cyber policy initiatives were reactive, laisse faire, and didn’t buttress American economic opportunity.

As the Obama era comes to a close, Dark Reading asks industry leaders to weigh in on the best and worst of the administration’s cybersecurity policies.

“Not all the armies of the history of the world can stop an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

American cyberspace has been colonized. Cyberspace of 2016 has become a free-fire zone with a multiplicity of actors. The cyber arms bazaar of the former Soviet bloc has allowed for criminals and developing nations to wage long-term campaigns against US corporations and government agencies.

Over the past eight years the Obama administration has made modest progress in securing cyberspace, but in the end I would give the administration a C+ in their efforts, largely because the cyber policy initiatives have been reactive and laisse faire. The administration has missed a handful of key opportunities to civilize cyberspace and buttress American economic security.

The incoming administration must make civilizing cyberspace a priority. The following five pillars encompass the strategic imperatives of a forward-leaning posture for our nation.

Pillar 1: E-forfeiture.  The Treasury department should apply anti-money laundering regulations of “know thy customer” to digital currencies via the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and proceed to expand forfeiture laws to digital assets so as to dismantle the economy of scale of the cybercrime economy. The proceeds of this E-forfeiture would be used to fund cybersecurity projects within critical infrastructures.

Pillar 2: Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The USTR must push to make cybercrime facilitated by nation states become the foremost issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and included on the agenda of the G-8 meetings. Russia and China have been in blatant violation of WTO rules as they relate to industrial espionage as facilitated through cyber means.

Pillar 3: E-governance. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should mandate that chief information security officers receive 25% of their correspondent agency IT budget and report directly to the secretaries of their departments.

Pillar 4: Federal Communications Commission. The FCC should create an automated mechanism between Internet service providers and the law enforcement community which would allow for the immediate sinkholing of bulletproof hosts that are involved in criminal conspiracies. 

Pillar 5: National Security Agency. The Cold War is alive and well. The NSA should be permitted to employ “active proportional defense” against myriad of nation-state adversaries as a reaction to their cyber espionage campaigns. One example would be to sinkhole command of known cyber espionage actors. Further, deceptive security technologies should be employed to allow for the diversion and containment of adversaries.

These five proactive cyber policy initiatives would civilize American cyberspace and assist in the dismantling of the Dark Web. If these authorities were authorized, cybersecurity would be seen as a national priority and thus would result in a boon for direct foreign investment in the American cloud as more international businesses appreciate the safety and soundness of the US IT environment.    

Cybersecurity is a non-partisan strategic issue which serves as the foundation for both privacy and the sustainability of the US economy. A recognition of this reality is the first step in realizing the true potential of America.

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Tom is a cyber intelligence expert, author, professor, and leader in the field of cybersecurity.  Having held a seat on the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President of the United States and serving as an advisor to the International Cyber Security Protection … View Full Bio

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