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The United States should strengthen cooperation with its allies and partners while recognizing that cybersecurity is inextricably linked to tackling shared threats, according to recommendations made in two recent State Department reports.

The reports, published by the State Department on May 31, come in response to US President Donald J. Trump’s May 2017 Executive Order 13800 on “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure.”
After testifying to lawmakers in the US House of Representatives and the Senate for more than ten hours on April 10 and 11, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg appears to have weathered the worst of storm over news that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data of 87 million Facebook users.

Here are some issues that came up in Zuckerberg’s testimony—and some that did not.
When asked about her country’s establishment of overseas “data embassies” to back up its data, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid replied: “There’s nothing about the technology that’s interesting.” In a country known for making policy leaps and bounds in the digital realm, progress can easily be mistaken for technical know-how. However, important as technological innovation is, it is not the whole story.
In the coming week, Congress will turn its attention to someone who has until now managed to fly under its radar—Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook. On April 10, Zuckerberg will appear as the sole witness before a joint hearing of two Senate committees—the Judiciary Committee and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. On April 11, he will then go on to testify (again as sole witness) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Both hearings will focus on transparency, privacy, and Facebook’s use and protection of consumer data. In his statement, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, underscored that “users deserve to know how their information is shared and secured.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, highlighted the existence of “significant concern about Facebook’s role in our democracy, bad actors using the platform, and user privacy.”
State and non-state actors are increasingly engaging in cyber conflict through a range of disruptive and destructive influence and interference operations. Among their targets? Elections.

While election interference does not equal the existential threat of disintegration of nuclear nonproliferation regimes or the perils of climate change, together these challenges all contribute to what was the key theme of the 2018 Munich Security Conference (MSC)—the crisis of the liberal international order.
The most effective solutions to persistent threats from cyberspace will come from international alliances such as the European Union (EU) and NATO, both of which have begun to take steps to bolster members’ resistance to cyberattacks from governments and non-state actors, a complex issue with a long history. 

Last week, on November 10, NATO defense ministers endorsed a set of principles outlining how the Alliance can integrate the cyber capabilities of its member states into Alliance military operations. Most significantly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre to help NATO defend cyberspace as a military domain as it has defended allies on land, sea, and in the air since the beginning of the Cold War.
The political instability that has resulted from Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections has put the focus on voting machines as a national security vulnerability, Douglas Lute, a former US permanent representative to NATO, said at the Atlantic Council on October 10.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a more severe threat to American national security than the election hacking experience of 2016,” said Lute. There is a “fundamental democratic connection between the individual voter and the democratic outcome” of an election, he said, adding: “If you can undermine that, you don’t need to attack America with planes and ships. You can attack democracy from the inside.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin “added to the political gridlock in Washington today, all at very low cost to him,” said Lute. “In military terms, this is the classic definition of a threat.”
The expectation that US President Donald J. Trump will decertify the nuclear deal with Iran this week raises the question: what would be the implications of decertification?

Trump faces an October 15 deadline to certify to the US Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement that the Islamic Republic struck with the five permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council plus Germany in 2015. The deal cuts off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Despite criticizing the agreement as “terrible,” Trump has twice before certified Iran’s compliance with the deal. The president doesn’t need a reason to decertify the deal. Trump is expected to state that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not in the United States’ national security interests.
Recently, there have been a number of articles that explore the important and ongoing debate about the capabilities and policies NATO needs in order to deter and defend against the ever-looming cyber threats.

 While many such articles accurately highlight the urgent need for NATO and its member states to develop a more proactive approach to countering cyber threats, it is worth further considering a significant step the Alliance has already taken towards achieving a more effective posture to counter cyber threats. At the NATO Warsaw Summit in July 2016, the Alliance declared cyberspace an operational domain.

By declaring cyber an operational domain in which the Alliance must defend itself as it does on land, sea, and air, member states gave NATO a mandate to create a dynamic framework that will help the organization to better confront current security challenges. When implemented by 2019, NATO’s decision will empower military commanders to use cyber tools alongside conventional means of defense to confront current security challenges, such as use of cyber tools as part of hybrid operations.
The significant increase in cross-border cyberattacks has been a wake-up call for the global community on the societal and political consequences of an insecure cyberspace. In order to prevent and prepare for future transnational cybersecurity challenges, governments must adopt a “multistakeholder model,” along with international collaboration and open discussions, according to a cybersecurity expert.

While governments have differing views on the role that they must play in the cyber realm, rethinking the role of the public sector in addressing cybersecurity risks is essential for effectively overcoming the challenges these risks pose, said Alexander Klimburg, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative and author of the new book The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace.

Klimburg participated in a conversation at the Atlantic Council on July 17 along with Laura Galante, founder of Galante Strategies, and Jane Holl Lute, a former deputy secretary in the US Department of Homeland Security who currently serves as chief executive officer of SICPA North America. Tai Kopan, a reporter with CNN, moderated the discussion.


    

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