- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Protecting the U.S. in Cyberspace

| Spring 2016

The computers, networks, and systems of cyberspace have become an integral part of daily life. They control critical infrastructure, ease and speed communication, enable financial transactions, and much more. However, the same aspects of connectivity that allow us to innovate also put us at risk. From theft to physical destruction, criminals, terrorists, and adversarial states are increasingly using cyber capabilities to do harm.

As a result, cybersecurity has become a growing national priority. The President’s FY2017 budget proposes $19 billion for cybersecurity, a 35 percent increase from FY2016, and the White House released a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) in February of this year. The CNAP details near-term action and long-term planning to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections. The Plan seeks to strengthen federal cybersecurity through a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, empower Americans to protect their own accounts through a National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign, and establish a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity to plan for the future.

This White House plan is only the latest move by the government to protect and advance U.S. interests and values in cyberspace. Four years ago, the Department of Defense announced the creation of a 6,000 person Cyber Mission Force to protect military networks, to defend the nation from significant cyber attacks, and to provide offensive support to battlefield commanders. The Federal Bureau of Investigation increasingly uses its role to help companies and individuals get ahead of a potential cyber attack and to assist with remediation in the aftermath of such an attack. The Treasury Department spearheaded an effort to enable the President to impose economic sanctions on malicious cyber actors. And the Department of State continues to seek consensus behind a series of norms for peacetime behavior in cyberspace to reduce the risks of conflict in the future.

Many of these initiatives represent different aspects of the challenges of conflict in cyberspace. The Belfer Center’s new Cyber Security Project will focus its research agenda on many of these issues to bring conceptual clarity to questions like: How can nations deter cyber attacks against critical infrastructure? How can states reduce the risks of escalation in a cyber conflict?  How can the government and the private sector cooperate in a crisis to defend the nation from a significant cyber attack?  By producing policy-relevant research and bringing together the best minds in cybersecurity for debate and discussion, we aim to create a conceptual arsenal of strategies to aid decision-makers as they confront future challenges of conflict in cyberspace.

Learn more about the Cyber Security Project here.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Sulmeyer, Michael. Protecting the U.S. in Cyberspace.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2016).