Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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A NATO for cyberspace?

British lawmakers are trying to make a case that the current state of cyberspace security, which is under constant attack from criminals and government adversaries, requires an international consensus on global regulations to govern it.

According to a Reuters report, the Brits feel that efforts at building security are now entirely ad hoc and work only “with loose groupings of people from relevant parts of industry coming together to address particular incidents.”

That’s probably true, but the idea of some kind of governmental superbody controlling even some aspects of the Internet runs contrary to the online ethos, which from the beginning has affirmed that cyberspace should be open and free from political influence.

However, cyberwar – whether or not everyone agrees on the term -- seems to be changing a lot of minds. It was one thing when cyber threats were mainly from spotty teenagers out for a lark. Now it’s sophisticated criminals, government-driven espionage and advanced persistent threats (APTs).

Some people in the U.S., while not yet going as far as the Brits, are increasingly calling on the government to get involved. The Internet has become just too important to the country’s economy and continued existence, they argue.

If, for the sake of argument, we agree that all of this is true, what kind of body should oversee this new effort at Internet governance? A cyber NATO? Perhaps not a good model, given NATO’s current level of dysfunction. A cyber U.N.? Some would argue that’s even less of a functioning body.

Whatever it is, given the reach of the Internet, it has to be truly global to be effective. Cyberspace stretches from the northernmost Inuit to entrepreneurs in Tierra del Fuego. Gone are the days when the Internet could be influenced by the equivalent of the G-7. Now it would be the G-196, depending on how many countries you think there are in the world.

One really interesting thing to come out of this, however, is that such a body would perforce likely have to operate through cyberspace. It’s also only fair, given that it’s about governance of cyberspace. Now, that would be something!

Posted on Mar 19, 2010 at 9:03 AM


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