Remember how U.S. cybersecurity sucks?
Perhaps the most striking thing about the report, however, is that it suggests that the US may be facing the prospect of being left as a technological backwater when it comes to security, and a national effort will be required to avoid that fate. The authors suggest a historic analog: “similar to the period after the launch of the Sputnik satellite in October, 1957, the United States is in a global race that depends on mathematics and science skills.” In response, it suggests that the new office develop a research and development framework, and accompany it with a public information campaign that will stress the importance of security considerations. If necessary, the government should incentivize the use of secure practices and equipment by private industry through programs like targeted tax breaks.
From Digits, the WSJ tech blog, here’s one expert’s reaction:
“They’re suggesting in this paper that if you don’t have good security, that you’ll be punished for it. The problem is that this is an evolving threat,” he said. “They seem to be waving the stick around a lot without having any serious carrots.”
I have absolutely no expertise in this area, so I’ll just point to some cool ideas for modeling computer security on the immune system.
While I’m at it, did you know sea lampreys have an unexpectedly sophisticated immune system?
From Science magazine’s Origins blog:
These eel-like creatures are often called “living fossils” because they are thought to have changed little since they arose 450 million to 500 million years ago, as part of a branch of jawless creatures that split off early from the rest of the vertebrate tree. Lampreys and hagfish are the only survivors of that jawless branch, and accumulating evidence indicates that the animals have developed an immune system far different from that of other vertebrates, including people. Today, in Nature, a team led by Max Cooper of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, unveils the latest chapter in this emerging evolutionary tale, providing data indicating that the sea lamprey has its own versions of B and T cells, the two cell types central to the so-called adaptive immune response found in people.
It’s not clear yet if the lamprey evolved its immune powers independently of the rest of us vertebrates, but if so, Holy convergent evolution, Lamprey-man!
I guess the lesson for us is this: if a living fossil can evolve itself an adaptive immune system, then surely the U.S. can find a way to keep the free world safe from even the wiliest of Chinese and Russian Lawnmower Men.
Update: NYTimes | Contractors Vie for Plum Work, Hacking for U.S.