Re-Categorizing Cyber Conflict

Re-Categorizing Cyber Conflict

At the end of May, the Senate confirmed Army Gen. Keith Alexander as commander of U.S. Cyber Command. The command's creation had already been controversial, and as a result, the Senate Armed Services Committee delayed Alexander's confirmation due to questions over roles and missions, authorities and restrictions. After his confirmation, Alexander specified that the new command is responsible for directing the day-to-day operations and defense of Department of Defense information networks, as well as for the "planning, integration, and synchronization of cyber activities, and when directed . . . for conducting full-spectrum military cyberspace operation[s]" to ensure freedom of action in cyberspace for the U.S. and its allies.

Consider that rather remarkable state of affairs: The command's daily writ does not extend to protecting the United States itself from cyber attack.

Since cyberspace's creation, the U.S. government has struggled with protecting it, an increasingly urgent problem given the country's growing dependence on the Internet. The challenge comes from the fact that cyberspace is largely created, owned, and operated by private entities, particularly in the United States. Consequently, the first responders to any cyber attack will likely be private-sector entities. The United States government simply lacks insight and oversight over private networks. As a result, three consecutive administrations have worked to build and strengthen public-private partnerships and cooperation to secure the U.S. information infrastructure, leaving the United States in the unsatisfactory position of relying on private parties pursuing private self-interests to secure the entire country's cyber infrastructure.

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