November 1, 2012  

Defending cyberspace

To Defense secretary Leon Panetta for establishing a baseline cybersecurity doctrine for the U.S. military and for simultaneously pressing Congress to do its part to shape national policy on the issue.

Panetta’s Oct. 11 speech defined America’s justification for the use of offensive cyber weapons: Attack us and we will strike back.

In putting a white-hot spotlight on a particularly baffling aspect of national-security policy, he laid bare Congress’ failure to create laws that ensure privately held national infrastructure is adequately protected.

Yet in doing so, Panetta earns a dart, as well, for muddying the public debate with over-the-top rhetoric. Cybersecurity experts have long quipped that the proper response to the words “cyber Pearl Harbor” (and yes, Panetta used those very words) is to go find someone else to talk to. There are indeed threats aplenty in the still-new cyber domain. But conflating the likely and unlikely ones is a real recipe for disaster.