In the wake of the alleged Chinese cyber assaults on Google earlier this year the chatter in Washington, DC advocating for an increased U.S. presence in policing cyber crime around the globe and protecting U.S. interests is growing by the day. And it could result in the formation of a new cyber security post, according to those close to the situation.
State Department officials began circulating a proposal to create the position shortly after Google was hit by a nasty wave of cyber attacks originating in the communist country in January, the latest in a long line of Chinese-based cyber crime affecting U.S. companies. The ambassador-level post would be responsible for negotiating cyber policies at the United Nation and maintaining U.S. cyber security policy overall, as well as attending to Internet freedom issues and their effect on the economy.
As tends to be the case in Washington though, egos and posturing can hold up even the most well-intentioned policy ideas. There has been some push back on the proposal from some in the State Department’s intelligence bureau, which is currently leading most overseas cyber security issues. In fact, when State Department leaders convened recently to discuss the matter broadly, as many as twelve different groups within State itself argued their case for leading the department’s cyber security efforts.
Nevertheless, it would appear that a cyber security “czar” position is inevitable. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is drafting its own proposal for it as well and the two government groups seem to be in agreement about the definition of the role—the position would need to be confirmed by the Senate (meaning they could be called to testify before Senate lawmakers at any time) and would report to either high-ranking State Department officials or a group of leaders from major government agencies that all have some hand in computer and security policy. The proposal is modeled after State’s existing counterterrorism coordinator (also an ambassador-level position). There will likely be some wrangling over whether State has the right to establish a cyber security czar on its own or if the job should be mandated by federal law.
Another measure being considered would tackle international cyber-security with a little more force, forming not only a cyber czar post at the State Department but also establishing attaches for cyber issues at all U.S. embassies around the world. This proposal would also require the administration to identify which countries are havens for cyber crime and which ones are taking steps to fight it. The findings of such research would dictate where foreign aid for combating cyber crime goes, and countries that don’t pull their weight in fighting cyber crime could face U.S. penalties.
All in all, it’s good to see Washington getting tough on international cyber crime, which many feel is just as dangerous a threat to the country as terrorism. We’ll keep you updated as new developments arise.