Will New Secretary of State Bring Change to National Cybersecurity Discussions?

Sue Marquette Poremba

As I mentioned earlier this week, 2013 has begun with DDoS attacks on the banking industry, and now it has been suggested that these attacks may be originating in Iran. It isn’t quite cyber war, but if it is being done in retaliation to the Stuxnet attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, as some have suggested, it may not be a stretch to think that cyber war is likely in the near, rather than distant, future.

For this reason, I think that as the confirmation hearings for the Secretary of State-nominee, John Kerry, begin, questions about cybersecurity need to be forefront on the table.

According to Nextgov, cybersecurity is going to be one of the top national security issues in the coming year. Couple that with another of Nextgov’s top national security concerns – Iran – and seeing that Iran may already be using cyber attacks against the U.S., addressing better cybersecurity, particularly for the nation’s critical infrastructure, has to become a priority, both for Congress and the State Department. Seeing that Congress has had its opportunities to act but failed last year, it may be up to the State Department to take the lead here.

Senator Kerry has long been a proponent of cybersecurity issues. For example, in 2010, he introduced a bill that would create a cybersecurity coordinator position in the State Department, specifically for international cybersecurity concerns. A Washington Post article also pointed out that Kerry would bring a technology focus to the State Department. He is also a regular user of social media and this is a guy who understands that the world we live in today is not the same world as it was even 10 years ago, when he was eyeing a presidential run.

How we communicate with international friends and adversaries and how battles are going to be fought have changed. The time has come for cybersecurity to be a major talking point for national security. So when the confirmation hearings begin, it will be interesting to see if Kerry is questioned about his thoughts and possible game plans for preventing a cyber war and protecting our infrastructure; after all, the topic was all but ignored in the presidential race last fall. It will also be interesting to see if Kerry and the State Department will be able to bring about change in the cybersecurity conversation.

After all, we would be foolish to think the DDoS attacks on the banking industry are an isolated incident. The time is ripe to address cybersecurity and how it plays into national security.



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