- - Thursday, August 29, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The offensive cyber-capabilities of the United States may well be outstanding, but every country faces challenges in this area (“Obama hits pause on U.S. action in face of crippling cyber-strikes from Syria, Iran,” Web, Aug. 28). Offensive cyber-capabilities are essential if nation-states are to succeed in the present and future realities of international security politics. They lend an obvious strategic advantage and provide the United States with leeway in its policies.

Defensive cyber-capabilities safeguard the critical infrastructure supporting state functions. Testifying to the House Armed Services Committee, National Security Agency Chief Gen. Keith Alexander was downbeat about current U.S. ability to deter malignant cyber-activity and defend itself. “Our adversaries in cyberspace are highly capable,” said Gen. Alexander. “Our defenses — across dot-mil and the defense industrial base — are not.”

Intelligence capabilities must be highly robust; nation-states need to know what is going on in cyberspace in order to defend their critical infrastructure and counter malignant activity. Resilience of a nation is measured in terms of both physical and cognitive endurance.

The actual extent of a state’s resilience becomes apparent only in a crisis. However, U.S. decisionmakers should worry about the cognitive endurance of a nation unused to severe crises on home territory. The extent of a nation’s digital dependence suggests how devastating a successful cyber-attack might be. The United States has grown deeply cyber-dependent in every aspect as a political state, a private economy and a society seeking to maintain its citizens’ way of life.

Owing to its deep digital dependency, the United States has the most to lose from a cyber-attack. JARNO LIMNELL
Director of Cyber Security
Stonesoft, a McAfee Group Company
Helsinki

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