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US Global Cyberspace Strategy Unveiled

May 17, 2011

A new initiative was launched on Monday by the White House designed to tighten global defenses against computer attacks and instill U.S. values such as freedom of expression that require international cooperation to ensure an open and secure Internet.

“Together, we can work together to build a future for cyberspace that is open, interoperable, secure, and reliable,” US President Barack Obama wrote in an introduction to the 25-page “International Strategy for Cyberspace.”

Cybersecurity has been one of Obama’s top priorities along with diplomatic engagement. He wrote that the document “outlines not only a vision for the future of cyberspace but an agenda for realizing it. It provides the context for our partners at home and abroad to understand our priorities and how we can come together to preserve the character of cyberspace and reduce the threats we face,” he writes.

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that the document was a good first step, reports AFP.

“It’s a continuation of the Obama national security strategy that says the US will engage with people and try to work with them,” Lewis said.

“So saying the United States wants to engage and here’s what we’d like to achieve ““ an Internet that’s open and stable and secure ““ that’s a good thing.”

Although short of specifics, the document outlines goals and a framework for international cooperation in promoting the U.S. vision for cyberspace in what it called seven priority areas, reports AFP.

Obama was absent from the unveiling of the document, which has been ratified by 30 countries, including the U.S. and 29 European nations. Canada and Turkey have yet to ratify the law, according to the treaty website. Among the nations that have yet to sign the treaty are China and Russia.

However, the event drew top members of his cabinet including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The gathering was also attended by diplomats and leaders of private industry, who were addressed by White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Obama’s counter-terrorism chief John Brennan.

Schmidt says that the document explains “what the U.S. stand for internationally in cyberspace, and how we plan to build prosperity, enhance security, and safeguard openness in our increasingly networked world.”

Clinton says, “We want to do more together to protect privacy and secure fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, online as we do offline.”

The strategy contains seven key policy priorities that include promoting Internet freedom and economic engagement to encourage innovation and trade while safeguarding intellectual property.

Enhancing the ability of law enforcement to respond to cybercrime and military cooperation to “help our alliances do more together to confront cyber threats,” are more priorities outlined in the document.

“There is no one-size-fits-all, straightforward route to this goal. We have to build a global consensus about a shared vision for cyberspace,” she says.

Cyber threats require a forceful response as well, the document states.

Pentagon networks “are probed millions of times a day and more than 100 foreign intelligence agencies have tried to penetrate our networks or those of our industrial partners,” says Lynn who is the deputy defense secretary.

In a fact-sheet, the White House says that it will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country.

“We reserve the right to use all necessary means — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests,” it says.

President and chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council Dean Garfield welcomes the initiative and says, “A growing number of governments worldwide are enacting cybersecurity-related laws, regulations, and other requirements that are inconsistent with generally accepted norms and standards,”

“This growing policy patchwork not only results in decreased security for nations, but also disrupts global commerce and ignores the borderless nature of the Internet.

“To date, the international community has lacked the collective willingness to engage in a meaningful conversation on the need for a global approach,” Garfield says. “US leadership is critical to reaching a consensus solution.”

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