Chapter 8

Security, Policy, Liberty, and Law

Memo to Next President: How to Get Cybersecurity Right

Originally published in Wired News, August 7, 2008

Obama has a cybersecurity plan.

It's basically what you would expect: Appoint a national cybersecurity adviser, invest in math and science education, establish standards for critical infrastructure, spend money on enforcement, establish national standards for securing personal data and data-breach disclosure, and work with industry and academia to develop a bunch of needed technologies.

I could comment on the plan, but with security, the devil is always in the details—and, of course, at this point there are few details. But since he brought up the topic—McCain supposedly is “working on the issues” as well—I have three pieces of policy advice for the next president, whoever he is. They're too detailed for campaign speeches or even position papers, but they're essential for improving information security in our society. Actually, they apply to national security in general. And they're things only government can do.

One, use your immense buying power to improve the security of commercial products and services. One property of technological products is that most of the cost is in the development of the product rather than the production. Think software: The first copy costs millions, but the second copy is free.

You have to secure your own government networks, military and civilian. You have to buy computers for all your government employees. ...

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