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"Protecting Cyberspace and the US National Interest"

"Protecting Cyberspace and the US National Interest"

Discussion Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

September 2010

Authors: Aki J. Peritz, Michael Sechrist, Former Associate, Explorations in Cyber International Relations (ECIR), Jan.-Jun. 2012; Former Project Manager, ECIR , Oct.-Dec. 2011; Former Research Fellow, ECIR, Jul. 2010-Sep. 2011, Former Associate, Explorations in Cyber International Relations (ECIR), Jan–Jun 2012; Former Project Manager, ECIR, Oct–Dec 2011; Former Research Fellow, ECIR, Jul 2010–Sept 2011

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Explorations in Cyber International Relations; The Cyber Project; Science, Technology, and Public Policy

 

NOTE

This paper is a working draft. The authors are interested in feedback. Please send your comments to michael_sechrist@hks.harvard.edu.

 

SUMMARY

We assess 'protecting cyberspace,' while extremely important, does not rise to the level of a first-order national security challenge as countering nuclear proliferation and defeating al Qaeda because most threats to America's digital infrastructure do not undermine core security interests. Most challenges to cyberspace, such as cybercrime, cyberespionage and cyberterrorism, can be ably handled by domestic law enforcement and intelligence services. The exemption to this assessment would be so-called 'cyberwar' between nations; however, a sophisticated, serious digital attack on the US would likely be attributable and carried out by states in concert with conventional kinetic options — acts of war that would provide the US the legal, moral and military authorities to respond.

Recognizing cyberspace's role as a medium for security, communication and commerce, we detail five ways that the US can better protect cyberspace: establish a comprehensive strategy, maintain strong deterrents, strengthen public-private partnerships, avoid bureaucratic overreach, and forge an international consensus. By doing so, policymakers can make better-informed decisions about how to properly defend the country from threats to America's digital infrastructure.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Peritz, Aki J., and Michael Sechrist. "Protecting Cyberspace and the US National Interest." Discussion Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, September 2010.

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