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International Engagement on Cyber: Establishing International Norms & Improved Cyber Security

Brent ScowcroftBrent Scowcroft, former national security advisor under presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, said during a cyber security forum at Georgetown that cyber attacks could destroy society.

March 29, 2011 – A former national security advisor who spoke at Georgetown March 29 said cyber attacks could destroy modern society if they are not controlled worldwide.

Brent Scowcroft, who served presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, spoke at a cyber security forum at the university.

Eerily Similar

“[The Cold War and cyber security] are eerily similar,” said Scowcroft, now president of the Scowcroft Group, an international business advisory firm. “In many ways, [cyber security issues are] more daunting” because of how ingrained the Internet is to society.

Scowcroft said the U.S.-U.S.S.R. arms control efforts could be a blueprint for how the international community could tackle cyber challenges.

“We came to realize nuclear weapons could destroy the world and cyber can destroy our society if its not controlled” Scowcroft said.

Fostering Conversation

The Georgetown University Institute for Law, Science and Global Security and the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank sponsored the forum, called International Engagement on Cyber: Establishing International Norms & Improved Cyber Security.

Catherine Lotrionte, executive director of the institute, said she hoped the all-day forum would foster constructive conversations on the issue.

“New thinking is needed on how to address issues such as the protection of private information, the establishment of common understandings regarding acceptable state behavior, the role of non-state actors and the interdependency of economics and security in this domain,” she said.

The forum consisted of four panels covering national security, law enforcement and deterrence; cyber security, economics and a healthier ecosystem; public-private collaboration models globally; and national and global strategies for managing cyberspace and security.

National View

During the national security, law enforcement and deterrence panel, a United States congressman said the nation’s laws and policies are not keeping up with the new cyber-related challenges.

“While we fiddle, our vulnerability continues to grow,” said Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chair of the U.S. Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. “We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.”

Thornberry added that cyber security is a concern of the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and that he had asked Boehner to coordinate committees to tackle the issue.

“I am optimistic something will happen in Congress,” Thornberry said.

Disruptive Force

Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, called cyber crimes “the most disruptive force in our species” since the discovery of the Western Hemisphere.

“We’re struggling to cope with its meaning,” Hayden said. “What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy in the 21st century? We have no idea.”

From the Georgetown University website.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.