On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his historic Moonshot speech to Congress that set the U.S. on a course to send a man to the moon. “Now it is time to take longer strides,” Kennedy told Congress that day. He then challenged NASA and the nation to a seemingly unimaginable task: to put a man on the moon (and safely return him to Earth) by the end of the decade.
Similar to John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot in the 1960s, we need a Cyber Moonshot – a call to action that galvanizes all the key stakeholders to step up and make our country safer in cyberspace over the long term. This kind of major industry and government initiative is what we need to sharpen and focus our cybersecurity capabilities. With concerted leadership, sustained investment, and clear incentives that spark action, we can achieve the Cyber Moonshot.
Without doubt, the U.S. has made progress on solving the cybersecurity challenge, but security efforts remain fractured and unfocused. In the first six months of 2017, the number of reported cybersecurity hacks reached a record-breaking 791, a 29 percent increase from the same period last year. This speaks volumes to that fact that we have yet to see real, demonstrable progress.
There is broad consensus that no single entity can solve the cybersecurity challenges we collectively face. Government, business, academia and other key stakeholders must work together and move beyond the “every man for himself” model. So, how do we get there?
Several important, actionable steps, when taken together, could significantly elevate the security of our digital lives and policy:
• Build a safer web: We need broader, systemic safety across online platforms to anticipate cybersecurity threats. Bad actors have time on their side and only need to successfully attack once to achieve their objective. Private sector innovation will be critical in driving this effort, including for device manufacturers, who must build more secure, resilient products, applications and solutions.
• Strengthen critical infrastructure security: We are witnessing a growing number of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure by a range of nation-state actors. Given how dependent our economy is on these networks, we need to ensure we can operate critical infrastructure, including the systems and devices needed to support it, in a degraded state.
• Partner with Congress to drive action: While cybersecurity initiatives have bipartisan support in Congress, lawmakers need continuous education on the topic. All members of Congress must understand the evolving threat landscape to evaluate cybersecurity issues and make decisions about the path forward.
• Energize the cyber experts of tomorrow: The government cannot compete with the private sector when it comes to cybersecurity talent. As a result, the government needs to strengthen its recruitment practices and reach computer science and security students earlier in the job-seeking process.
• Create global consensus: Many countries now face regular threats from cyber adversaries seeking to undermine their national institutions. It is imperative that we develop and enforce international cyber norms, administering appropriate punishments for violations.
These steps can be enacted right now and may be the catalyst we need to take action and become cyber safe in the next five years, (that’s a BHAG – big hairy audacious goal).
Our Cyber Moonshot paper outlines how to make this initiative a reality. With a set of shared goals, an agreed-upon approach and focused leadership, we can improve not only national security, but security across the myriad devices and systems that support our daily lives.
Gus Hunt is managing director and cyber lead for Accenture Federal Services and former CTO for the CIA.