In the brilliant Empire of the Summer Moon, author S.C. Gwynne mentions that, of the many things that confused the Comanche about the American settlers and soldiers, they took orders from Washington DC was high on the list. To the Comanche, Washington DC was impossibly far away, and it seemed improbable to connect with an area that was many months of travel from you. The Comanche had their territory, and while they warred with other tribes for land and water, those tribes were nearby. The idea that representatives could come from a “tribe” thousands of miles away was ridiculous (and that they could make and eventually enforce demands was even more grievous).
There were empires before, but none would or could be as centrally-controlled as those of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries because of advances in communications technology. Today, the idea of the nation-state is fraying, and stateless actors, both good and ill, dominate world events. That’s what made last week’s Silicon Valley announcement so interesting. The elected leader from the capital came west to talk about communication that enabled cooperation and the pressing issue of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity and Mobile Technology
There was a reason President Obama chose Silicon Valley as the venue to discuss cybersecurity and mobile tech. While the heart of governmental cybersecurity is in the Washington DC area, including the NSA, FBI, and CIA headquarters, cybersecurity is not just a governmental concern. These agencies are tasked with stopping hacks on both government and corporate entities, such as the attack on Sony last year. But, by coming to Silicon Valley, Obama demonstrated that this can’t just be a government project, for two reasons.
The first is the deep expertise in Silicon Valley. The internet may have originally been a government project, but it has taken on vitality and life through private sector innovation. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are significant avenues through which we interact with the internet, are fueled by Silicon Valley innovations and where we’re most vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.
The second reason is that the amazing mobile tech that has changed our lives and the world has opened us up to more vulnerabilities. Due to the distrust many of us have in the wake of the Snowden revelations, we may not believe the government has our best interests in mind. Policing the internet must be a public and private effort, starting with the leaders of the internet, to prevent it from being a Wild West. That’s why President Obama called for cooperation between the government and leaders of Silicon Valley.
What this means moving forward
There are 5 parts to the Obama administration’s cybersecurity platform.
- Protecting the country’s critical infrastructure (our most important information systems) from cyber threats.
- Improving our ability to identify and report cyber incidents so that we can respond in a timely manner.
- Engaging with international partners to promote internet freedom and build support for an open, interoperable, secure and reliable cyberspace.
- Securing federal networks by setting clear security targets and holding agencies accountable for meeting those targets.
- Shaping a cyber-savvy workforce and moving beyond passwords in partnership with the private sector.
Of these, three and five concern us most as citizens and users of mobile technology. A reliable cyberspace means that we don’t have to be afraid to use our phones or tablets. Right now, caution is healthy (though paranoia remains questionable). Partnering to form a secure global internet doesn’t have to mean that the internet becomes regulated and loses its vitality. But allowing those who focus only on security to set the agenda makes that outcome a possibility.
Number five is exciting because the more we learn about individual security and the more comfortable we become taking common-sense measures, the more free and open things will be. They will move faster and help to unlock the full potential of the internet and our mobile technology. It’s like a child, right now, and we’re worried about it getting hurt or running into the road or something equally as awful. We don’t want to smother the child – we want to protect it so that it can thrive and grow.
Private companies must be responsive to the public good, and so must the government. They may have competing agendas, but if the consumers and enjoyers of mobile tech demand that they work together in all our interests, we can continue to enjoy this remarkable world we’ve formed. Stay tuned for more insights into cybersecurity and mobile tech. Follow the ClickAway Blog. For more information about ClickAway, Just watch some of the technology issues we face every day with our customers.