Media attention has focus on this issue
- By Dwayne Melancon
- May 01, 2016
Cybersecurity isn’t the sexiest topic for
presidential candidates right now, but
controversial legislation, massive security
breaches and increasing tension with China
are keeping media attention on the issue.
This means that lawmakers and politicians
are going to have to grapple with the issue sooner rather
So far, presidential candidates and elected officials have addressed
cybersecurity only in the most general terms. The cyber
security problem isn’t going to remain in the background though;
it is entwined in many crucial U.S. issues including terrorism,
consumer privacy, consumer financial protections, healthcare information
security and concerns about government and nationstate
intrusion. The reality is that our representatives mean well,
but they don’t understand this complex issue well enough to propose
meaningful solutions. To date, cyber security proposals have
been the equivalent of offering a Band-Aid to a stabbing victim.
A few of the candidates have mentioned cyber security in their
comments, but there is a big difference between a candidate who
has a cybersecurity policy and a candidate who has an understanding
of cybersecurity. A recent survey of cybersecurity professionals
found that 68 percent of them would prefer to vote
for a presidential candidate with a strong cybersecurity policy.
The question is: how will we gain confidence that any candidate
grasps the issues enough to improve things?
I posit that information security professionals are part of this
policy problem. We aren’t engaged in helping our government
put together realistic solutions. We want policymakers to provide
leadership on this critical issue, but when they do we point out the
deficiencies of their proposals and trash their limited understanding
of the problem without engaging to make things better. From
our perspective, everyone in a policy making position falls short.
Unfortunately, this behavior leads to one of two equally undesirable
- Faulty legislation with limited impact gets rubber stamped.
- We question and criticize proposed solutions until legislative
experts give up.
Developing effective cybersecurity policy is a two-way street.
Cyber security is a complicated issue that is in a state of constant
change; there are no simple solutions. We need our politicians to
“know what they don’t know,” actively engage with the technical
community and make it easier for non-politicians to participate
in a substantive way. Input through “open comments” on a web
site just won’t cut it. Collaboration technologies have improved
exponentially in the last few years, so we may be able to leverage
technology to help, for example.
The technical community needs to stop complaining and
reach out to elected officials with the intention finding a way to
contribute to the evolution of effective policies. Nothing is going
to change for the better until the technical community finds a
way to engage. We have the knowledge and expertise to help craft
meaningful proposals. We can’t continue to dismiss every effort
The bottom line is that everyone wants to solve this problem
for the greater good; everyone wants to make a difference. We’re
just not doing that very well…yet.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.
About the Author
Dwayne Melancon is the CTO at Tripwire