Developing a U.S. cyber strategy must happen responsibly

By: Jarrett Lane  

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee recently released a report outlining its findings on security threats posed by Huawei and ZTE, two of China’s largest telecommunications companies.  The report suggests these companies illegally feed data to the Chinese government.  In an effort to hit back at the supposed dirty play of the Chinese government and its “corporate co-conspirators,” the Committee recommends measures to stymie Huawei and ZTE expansion into U.S. markets.

Though the unclassified report does not provide concrete evidence behind the accusations, it highlights intensified efforts within the U.S. government to develop a bona fide cybersecurity strategy. Only four days after the House’s report was released, Secretary Panetta met with the Business Executives for National Security.  During his meeting with private sector representatives, Panetta stressed the importance of protecting U.S. infrastructure and financial institutions from cyber attacks.

Though the report and meetings were well intentioned, both raise critical questions.  How will the Chinese government respond if the House report’s recommendations are implemented?  Will a dangerous game of Sino-US trade wars ensue?  How can the US and China collaborate to address vulnerabilities in the “telecommunications supply chain?” What role should the federal government have in protecting companies from foreign actors?  What must happen for the government and private sector to effectively cooperate in cybersecurity?  How will technology shape the future of geopolitics?

These questions have no easy answers; any solution will certainly be political. Senate Republicans already blocked the Lieberman-Collins cyber bill because they felt it too burdensome for private companies.  Interagency haggling over resources and responsibility for cyber capabilities will consume more and more of the discussion in Washington.  As decision-makers flail around trying to find answers to these difficult questions, let’s hope they don’t make rash decisions on cybersecurity – especially with respect to China.

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