By Darleen Hartley @ Monday, March 23, 2009 7:48 AM
| ||IT is crucial to the US economy, and changes in governance are required, says James A Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).|
Lewis was speaking before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the US Senate about the effect of information technology on global economics. Both the House and the Senate are responding to president Obama’s request that the National Security Council undertake a sixty-day review of the US approach to cybersecurity.
Earlier this month, Lewis also testified before the US House’s Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology.
Lewis, director and senior fellow of the CSIS Technology and Public Policy Program, sees information technology as contributing maybe as much as one third of the US GDP (gross domestic product). He said that information technology is at the centre of an immense and ongoing transformation in the global economy, in politics and society, and in military affairs. He feels the use of cyberspace has become a key element in both economic and national security. Lewis explained that networked, digital information technology provides the infrastructure for new ways to organise, interact and create wealth.
His concern is that the internet cannot be fully secured given how it is configured and governed right now. Changes in governance, practices and standards need to be brought into play. Currently, access to sensitive information for purposes of espionage and theft pose the most immediate threat. US national security and economic strength is damaged by theft of intellectual property and the loss of advanced commercial and military technology to foreign competitors.
Lewis cited failures of cyber security in recent years. 'The Secretary of Defense’s unclassified email was hacked. The Department of Commerce’s bureau for high tech trade had to go off-line after its networks were penetrated. Foreign entities penetrated the networks of the Departments of State and Energy, Nasa and other federal agencies, along with networks at federal contractors, the defence industry and major companies. It is interesting to note that in the same period the governments of the United Kingdom, France and Germany also experienced major cyber incidents.'
Innovation has become a central element in economic competition, Lewis said. A more innovative nation will be stronger and more secure because of its stronger economy and better technology.
The recent stimulus bill funded research hoping for just such innovations. However, resulting information will be stored in computer databases, which are usually networked and connected to the internet. That means they are vulnerable to penetration and the information stored on them accessible by others.
The Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) made progress in securing federal networks, which included Einstein, a technology that monitors federal networks for intrusion. But, Lewis said, contrary to its name, the CNCI is not comprehensive. It only focused on the 'dot gov' space – on government networks. The global network, which is largely operated by the private sector, was not addressed.
Lewis predicts that 'If we do not improve cybersecurity… others can easily access work that cost us millions to develop for only a few dollars. The resulting research and innovation will be a subsidy to foreign industry as much as our own.' X
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