Collaboration needed to stabilize cyberspace

The federal government needs to team up with groups outside of conventional security communities to effectively fight cyber instability that could threaten U.S. interests, according to new research.

A report by the Cyber Conflict Studies Association, Atlantic Council and Intelligent Decisions, Inc., identifies flaws in current U.S. cybersecurity strategies and then lays out recommendations for the national security community. The report finds that the overall U.S. strategic cyber environment hasn’t managed to establish credible deterrence and effectively thwart cyber adversaries and conflicts.

Among the recommendations in the report is that military and federal civilian cyber defense increasingly work with non-governmental organizations, researchers, corporations and groups outside traditional security communities. Collaboration could be achieved by using existing groups and information networks, including Computer Emergency Response Teams and ad hoc groups that often team up to address cybersecurity challenges.

“This collaboration must be focused on developing resilience in the face of a continuously evolving threat that has demonstrated that it will penetrate defenses,” the report states.

Most current research and analysis focus on cyber conflict on the offensive and exploitative capacity for non-state actors. The report said that findings indicate, however, it’s important to examine work done by non-state actors in mitigating cyber threats, particularly the advantages and disadvantages of the current state of collaboration.

The report found alternative approaches to cybersecurity would benefit U.S. goals and enhance overall stability in cyberspace. This includes the public health model, which considers how norms for states and non-state actors can restrict a disease from spreading. The second proposal, the environmental model, also emphasizes cyber cleanup and suggests applying “a legal regime” to handle problems such as pollution. A third method, the irregular warfare approach, leverages an existing military thinking to provide new understanding to cyber conflict management and mitigation.

“We believe that the ability to adapt current approaches and think more in terms of management of conflict, as well as developing approaches that prioritize addressing a wide range of actors and the role of collaboration will be essential in informing U.S. policy and meeting the challenges of cyber instability,” the report stated.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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