Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace

“This world—cyberspace—is a world that we depend on every single day… [it] has made us more interconnected than at any time in human history.” —President Barack Obama, May 29, 2009

The White House released a white paper last month on the U.S. strategy and policy regarding the future of the Internet and the implications of an increasing online world. I decided to explore this 30 page paper from the perspective of cybersecurity, to see what was on the mind of our President and where he saw the world and the U.S. in particular heading.

President Obama in his own words “envisions a future in which reliable access to the Internet is available from nearly any point on the globe, at a price that businesses and families can afford. Computers can communicate with one another across a seamless landscape of global networks permitting trusted, instantaneous communication with friends and colleagues down the block or around the world. Content is offered in local languages and flows freely beyond national borders, as improvements in digital translation open to millions a wealth of knowledge, new ideas, and rich debates. New technologies improving agriculture or promoting public health are shared with those in greatest need, and difficult problems benefit from global collaboration among experts and innovators. This, in part, is the future of cyberspace that the United States seeks—and the future we will work to realize.”

Ok I am with the President so far. Next, specifically focusing on cybersecurity incidents, the U.S. aims to detect threats early and share data in real-time to mitigate the spread of malware or minimize the impact of a major disruption—all while preserving the broader free flow of information.

Makes sense and stuff we’ve heard before.

The President then states “The United States will defend its networks, whether the threat comes from terrorists, cybercriminals, or states and their proxies. Just as importantly, we will seek to encourage good actors and dissuade and deter those who threaten peace and stability through actions in cyberspace. We will do so with overlapping policies that combine national and international network resilience with vigilance and a range of credible response options. In all our defense endeavors, we will protect civil liberties and privacy in accordance with our laws and principles.”

Ok we are going to carry a big club and be careful not to clobber the wrong people. I’m with you all the way Mr. President.

“In the case of criminals and other non-state actors who would threaten our national and economic security, domestic deterrence requires all states have processes that permit them to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute those who intrude or disrupt networks at home or abroad. Internationally, law enforcement organizations must work in concert with one another whenever possible to freeze perishable data vital to ongoing investigations, to work with legislatures and justice ministries to harmonize their approaches, and to promote due process and the rule of law—all key tenets of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.”

“When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country. All states possess an inherent right to self-defense, and we recognize that certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners. We reserve the right to use all necessary means—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests. In so doing, we will exhaust all options before military force whenever we can; will carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs of inaction; and will act in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, seeking broad international support whenever possible.”

To paraphrase, if we need to the U.S. will launch some missiles to dislodge that nasty botnet server – with international support for our actions of course.  All in all, the President is highlighting the fact that we are deep into the digital age and getting even deeper as technology becomes ingrained in our way of life. And thus, the U.S. will do everything in its power to build, maintain, and protect this way of life going forward.  I can dig it.