• Digital networks are the nervous system of our civilization, essential to commerce and culture. The entire economy, from banking to utilities to manufacturing to healthcare, relies on internet-style communications. Even the military has reorganized for what it calls “network-centric warfare.”
• But the internet empowers everybody, including criminals and foreign governments intent on weakening America. As digital networks have proliferated, so has malicious software designed to exploit the networks for destructive purposes. Internet predators are increasingly capable and sophisticated.
• Cyber threats are now so common that they pose a real danger to national security. Networks must be secured against intrusion, otherwise the nation risks severe economic damage and potential defeat at the hands of other countries. But the anonymity of the internet impedes efforts to deter and destroy threats.
• The federal government has taken a number of steps aimed at combating threats to digital networks, including a Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative launched in 2008. However, the current federal framework for dealing with cyber threats is fragmented, and cannot keep up with emerging dangers.
• The new administration will have to determine whether current cyber-security efforts are sufficient, or additional resources are required. It will also have to decide whether the current federal framework for addressing cyber threats can do the job, and if not how to tap more agile sources of expertise in the marketplace.
• This report provides a concise overview of emerging threats to America’s networks and the federal response, highlighting key issues for the new administration. It was written by Dr. Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute staff.
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