The private sector must “take the lead” in cyberspace as federal agencies struggle keep up with much-needed improvements to the online security of critical infrastructure, according to a report released Tuesday by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
The 82-page report, “An American Strategy for Cyberspace” details the challenges of four policy objectives: international trade and digital commerce, cybercrime and law enforcement, critical infrastructure and cyber defense, and internet freedom. Staff at AEI, a think tank often viewed as an incubator for officials in future GOP administrations, worked for two years on the report.
The authors emphasize the importance of the private sector’s ability to influence America’s cybersecurity innovation, whether by developing more technology or leading the debate in policy.
“Prevailing in the cyber domain will often require that the private sector, not the government, take the lead,” the report said. “If entrepreneurs and innovators continue to define the future of the Internet, American interests and ideals will be well served.”
The role of the private sector recently has been highlighted by an aggressive push for cyber enforcement —encouraging stronger authentication and encryption systems, researchers write. While more is being done, the report estimates the cost of cybercrime could rise to $2 trillion annually by 2019.
The federal government has a role in protecting the nation’s cyberspace, too, especially for the 16 sectors of vital industries defined by the U.S. government as critical infrastructure, but agencies lack the capacity, equipment, and in some cases, the authority to truly be successful, the report says. For example, the report said the Homeland Security Department does not have “the operational capacity to actively engage in real-time defense of civilian agencies or critical infrastructure.”
“While we believe the challenges facing America in cyberspace are significant and demand a far more proactive and strategic response than is embodied in current policies, we are also optimistic about the future of digital technologies and their potential to improve the human condition,” the report said.
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