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Impediments with Policy Interventions to Foster Cybersecurity

By Fred B. Schneider

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 3, Pages 36-38

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The list of cyberattacks having significant impacts is long and getting longer, well known, and regularly invoked in calls for action. Such calls are not misplaced, because society is becoming more dependent on computing, making cyberattacks more capable of widespread harm. Vardi's recent call1 "it is time to get government involved, via laws and regulations" motivates this Viewpoint. Indeed, we do know how to build more-secure systems than we are deploying today. And governments can—through regulation or other mechanisms—incentivize actions that individuals and organizations are otherwise unlikely to pursue.

However, a considerable distance must be traversed from declaring that government interventions are needed to deciding particulars for those interventions, much less intervening. To start, we need to agree on specific goals to be achieved. Such an agreement requires understanding monetary and other costs that we as a society are willing to incur, as well as understanding the level of threat to be thwarted. Only after such an agreement is reached, does it make sense for policymakers to contemplate implementation details.


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