The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

Summary: When the Obama administration yesterday issued its cyberspace doctrine, it's big news in terms of how the government of the United States officially intends to treat the issue of cyberspace.

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TOPICS: CXO, Security
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Today, as nations and peoples harness the networks that are all around us, we have a choice. We can either work together to realize their potential for greater prosperity and security, or we can succumb to narrow interests and undue fears that limit progress. Cybersecurity is not an end unto itself; it is instead an obligation that our governments and societies must take on willingly, to ensure that innovation continues to flourish, drive markets, and improve lives. While offline challenges of crime and aggression have made their way to the digital world, we will confront them consistent with the principles we hold dear: free speech and association, privacy, and the free flow of information.

The digital world is no longer a lawless frontier, nor the province of a small elite. It is a place where the norms of responsible, just, and peaceful conduct among states and peoples have begun to take hold. It is one of the finest examples of a community self-organizing, as civil society, academia, the private sector, and governments work together democratically to ensure its effective management. Most important of all, this space continues to grow, develop, and promote prosperity, security, and openness as it has since its invention. This is what sets the Internet apart in the international environment, and why it is so important to protect.

In this spirit, I offer the United States' International Strategy for Cyberspace. This is not the first time my Administration has address the policy challenges surrounding these technologies, but it is the first time that our Nation has laid out an approach that unifies our engagement with international partners on the full range of cyber issues. And so this strategy 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.

So begins United States President Barack Obama's introduction to America's formal cyberspace doctrine, published yesterday on the White House Web site at 3:46pm. (See: International Strategy for Cyberspace [pdf] )

The doctrine outlines seven specific policy priorities:

  • Economy: Promoting International Standards and Innovative, Open Markets
  • Protecting Our Networks: Enhancing Security, Reliability, and Resiliency
  • Law Enforcement: Extending Collaboration and the Rule of Law
  • Military: Preparing for 21st Century Security Challenges
  • Internet Governance: Promoting Effective and Inclusive Structures
  • International Development: Building Capacity, Security, and Prosperity
  • Internet Freedom: Supporting Fundamental Freedoms and Privacy

Presidential doctrines provide the definitive guidance to American agencies, officials, and security personnel, essentially laying out the path and priorities for America in the area covered by the doctrine. Doctrines like the Monroe Doctrine (which, in 1823, essentially said that if other countries screw with us, we'll fight back), have lasted decades or even centuries.

So, when the Obama administration yesterday issued its cyberspace doctrine, it's big news in terms of how the government of the United States officially intends to treat the issue of cyberspace.

We saw a hint of a cyberspace doctrine back in September, when United States Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III published an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, discussing America's cyberwarfare policy.

See also: Inside look at Pentagon's cyberdefense strategy: The battlefield beyond bad flash drives

But now, we have the full, official doctrine. Rest assured, this one 30-page document will be scoured by foreign affairs officials in almost every country on the planet. Because of America's reach and influence (and because it was almost undoubtedly shared and discussed among our allies), this document will, essentially, become the cyberspace doctrine for most free nations.

Let me caution anyone who might think that a doctrine like this is a political (as in Republican vs. Democratic) document. Presidential foreign policy doctrines have a way of far outlasting their creators and I have no doubt that America's foreign relations strategy, as it pertains to cyberspace, will be measured against this document for years and possibly even decades or centuries to come.

That said, because the Internet is such a rapidly changing beast (I have no doubt that the Obama administration had no expectation of a Wikileaks, for example), I do expect the policy elements and individual items in the United States' International Strategy for Cyberspace to change to meet our changing world.

I haven't had time to fully digest all the implications of this document yet, but stay tuned. I'll have further analysis as I get a better feel for the deeper implications.

In the meantime, I suggest you read the following resources:

See also:

We've recently had some excellent, high-quality discussions, like the one for my post Dear Mrs. Clinton: whether you believe it or not, China is a threat to America. Let's keep up the same quality of discourse here. Please feel free to discuss your impressions of this very important policy document.

Topics: CXO, Security

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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41 comments
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  • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

    David, is this doctrine pubically available, and if so, can you link to it? I might have missed it, but I didn't see a link above for it.
    KBot
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @KBot ... try this: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_doctrine" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_doctrine</a>

      or ...

      http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/international_strategy_for_cyberspace.pdf
      SafeBoy
      • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

        @SafeBoy
        Thanks!
        KBot
  • &quot;succumb to narrow interests and undue fears that limit progress&quot;

    And: "Economy: Promoting International Standards and Innovative, Open Markets"

    How do they square that with using federal resources to protect the interests of RIAA/MPAA and granting ridiculous extensions to copy right terms?

    More political garbage rhetoric?
    Economister
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @Economister What they said is a euphemism for doing just that. "Promote international standards and innovation" means "Sign international treaty designed to curtail users' rights"
      snoop0x7b
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @Economister -- Yeah! They don't mind protecting Hollywood and the artist, but innovators be damned. Just let the Chinese and any big corporation with expensive lawyers steal all your ideas, and you can just work on a slave farm for peanuts!
      JCitizen
    • Simple. The Executive Branch has less influence ...

      @Economister ... over the Legislative Branch than do lobbyists who routinely pressure Congress to protect their interests and donate money to them as a reward for their cooperation.

      The Judicial Branch had been unwittingly complicit in the matter by accepting (for more than a century now) the premise that a corporate entity has the same rights of free expression as individual citizens. The Supreme Court has likewise affirmed that financial gifts constitute Free Speech.

      As for the open ended extension of copyright, I doubt that your definition of "ridiculous extention" is the same as most people but it all started with Disney laying claim to "Mickey Mouse" even though Walt Disney, his creator, was dead.

      That said, the RIAA/MPAA claims of copyright infringement when users share their music and movies via peer-to-peer tools are legitimate. Such P2P "sharing" is theft - pure and simple.
      M Wagner
  • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

    Take away freedom is all this communist idiot knows.
    katrillionaire@...
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @katrillionaire@...
      Would you care to offer an example or two?
      Or is your biased view of this man showing through?

      "Take away freedom is all this communist idiot knows.
      This is what you said, what do you really mean?
      tonyman262
      • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

        @tonyman262 - Obamacare is one example.
        Massive intrusions into the private sector is another.

        Some people tend to have views biased against people who are doing them harm.
        hiraghm@...
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @katrillionaire@... <br><br><i>I see the slant that they tried to put on this whole "Cyber security En-doctrine" It all leans towards Obama and the other right-wing liberals supporting the wrong thing. If we let him decide we'll have the same bogus rules applied to us as in China, and we'll be restricted as to when we can use Google or something.</i>
      cosmos-420man
  • I haven't had the time to read the document yet, but...

    I'll be impressed if someone finally took the initiative to safeguard American citizens online. There are so many places in the world where there are virtually no consequences or risks involved in perpetrating crimes against American citizens online, and it is long past due that we start protecting our digital borders. We wouldn't tolerate someone bringing bales of Marijuana into the country, but it is just fine to lure someone in with the promise of prescription drugs, steal their credit card information, and then sell it to the highest bidder?

    Very rarely in the physical world do I witness any type of crime occurring, and yet I am confronted with online theft and fraud attempts multiple times every single day. I for one am completely tired of it. I am tired of fixing or formatting servers because someone forgot to install a patch and now it is being used to send spam from eastern Europe. I am tired of logging thousands of failed login attempts nightly against our FTP servers from China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I am tired of my inbox being flooded with nonsense garbage trying to get me to purchase "V|4Gar4" or asking for my bank account because they have millions of dollars they need to transfer and can't afford the "customs fees." Enough is enough.

    I hope the doctrine provides for depleting our cruise missile inventory on the hackers, phishers, spammers, and crooks, and if it is a US citizen maliciously and intentionally involved in the crime, kill two birds with one stone and strap them to the front of the missile before firing it.
    Mauszer
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @Mauszer "I'll be impressed if someone finally took the initiative to safeguard American citizens online. "

      That someone is you. You take the initiative to safeguard yourself online. Stop demanding that others take responsibility for your safety.
      hiraghm@...
      • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

        @hiraghm@... I spend 8-10 hours a day safeguarding not only myself but hundreds of other individuals as well. It is my job, and I am not asking the government to come to my house and properly configure my firewall and/or anti-virus software or monitor my emails. I think we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and I am a strong supporter of our right to bear arms for that reason.

        That all being said, your argument is no different than blaming a murder or rape victim for the crime because they were in a bad neighborhood or wore the wrong clothes. It was their responsibility to make sure they weren't victimized right?

        As citizens we should be able to expect our government to pursue criminals and impose consequences on those who would purposefully do harm to others. Without the basic principles of law enforcement the role of government is more or less nullified... The legislative branch has no reason to create laws which the executive branch will not enforce and the judicial branch will not uphold. At that point society will descend into chaos, and we all better stock up on ammunition because we're going to need it.
        Mauszer
  • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

    Generally, when I see government trying to "fix" a problem that doesn't even exist, I get scared. All too often (read: always), government's solutions are far worse than the problems they're designed to "fix". The private, free market is the best allocator of resources, the government's only involvement should be in mediating the peaceful resolution of disputes (court system).
    swmace
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @swmace +1
      hiraghm@...
    • Very good!

      Government involvement into any field is a means towards eventual regulation or control of that which they didn't have much of a saying over. The internet is a target by big government advocates, because, through control of the internet, they'll control the message that goes out to the people. .
      adornoe
  • Why when the government says they

    Why when the government says they are "protecting" me do I get nervous and have an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach?

    Ah, because everything they do anything to "protect" me it takes away another personal freedom and puts them smack in the middle of my business.

    Ask yourself, who do you fear more, some 17 year old hacker in China or your own government in excess?
    NoAxToGrind
    • Well, ....

      @NoAxToGrind

      when the police wants to jail you for recording their actions, you can see where this is heading. Deeply troubling indeed.
      Economister
    • RE: The Obama Cyberdoctrine: tweet softly, but carry a big stick

      @NoAxToGrind
      It did not take me too long to figure out who frightened you. And by me replying, I "spect" you also have figured out who I trust. You can go live in china at any time. I will chip in for the fare if it's one way. America: LOVE HER OR LEAVE HER; BY GOD!!
      eargasm