Commentary | May 03, 2010

Businesses, Governments and Consumers Must Work Together to Secure Cyberspace

Cybersecurity demands cooperation from all sectors and all users, said leaders from businesses and governments at an EastWest Institute dinner in Dallas. A panel of experts called on all parties to share information and coordinate efforts to reap the benefits of the digital economy while avoiding its dangers.

"Cybersecurity is the responsibility of everyone," said Teri Takai, California's Chief Information Officer. "The most critical threat is us. We have to be sure that we're using the technology correctly and we're protecting it."

A crucial issue is attribution, according to Michael Dell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dell, Inc. "We have an enormous number of bad actors who are able to be completely anonymous," he said. "Can you think of any secure system where people can operate anonymously?"

Both public and private sectors have a critical role to play to secure cyberspace, the panel suggested. "Industry has a responsibility to share its best practices," said Melissa Hathaway, former Acting Senior Director for Cyberspace on the U.S. National Security Council, while Dell stressed the need for public sector leadership. "It's not a decision for any individual or a business to make," he said. "It's a societal decision."

Phillip Reitinger, Deputy Undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, emphasized the need for a longer-term focus on the issue. "I fear that we're going to let the urgent overtake the critical," he said, arguing for a thoughtful, sustained cybersecurity initiative.

Dell echoed the need to avoid knee-jerk policies. "It's important not to demonize the technology," he said. "The vast majority of people using the Internet are good people."

Panelists agreed that the consequences of inaction are dire. "If we let our attention waver for a second, we will be in a world of hurt -- now and in the future," said Reitinger.