A Conservative Vision for Cybersecurity (Part II of IV) By Austen D. Givens
In January of 2016 I provided a conservative vision for addressing cybersecurity challenges in the post-Obama era before the James Sherman Society at Utica College. That vision emphasized four key points. I will now discuss the second of these four points.
Point 2: The United States must retaliate aggressively, consistently, and publically against nations and non-state actors that purposefully break into, and damage or destroy, U.S. computer networks.
How, and when, should the United States retaliate against cyber attacks?
Harvard University’s Joseph S. Nye, who coined the term “soft power,” points out in the most recent issue of International Security that cyber counter-attacks need not be electronic.
For example, during a 2015 visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Xinping reportedly reached an understanding with former President Obama about the need for China to cease its electronic theft of American intellectual property. That understanding turned on the fact that Obama threatened President Xi with economic retaliation if China were not to modify its behavior.
Against this backdrop, it is worth considering whether the United States will, for example, attempt to retaliate in any way against the Russian government for its interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.
At the time of this writing, the answer is: probably not.
President Trump has shown himself to be unswervingly devoted to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have all been linked to the Russian government, yet President Trump has demonstrated no appetite for investigating these ties to the Kremlin. Thus far there have been no White House statements regarding retaliation against the Russians for having interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election.
If Russia continues to go unpunished for its interference in the 2016 election, then that will send a powerful message to other American adversaries that they can meddle in American democratic processes with impunity.
Austen D. Givens is Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity at Utica College.