Cyber Strategies for a World at War


President Obama and the Cyber Threat – On the Trail

A CSWW Analysis

To mark the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, and in addition to our normal coverage of the cyber-related news and events, CSWW will provide an in-depth, serial look at what the world can expect regarding President Obama’s view toward cyber warfare and the threat it poses to the United States.

We will provide a series of occasional posts that present President Barack Obama’s, and his team’s, words and writings regarding the cyber threats to the United States and what he, as president, intends to do to confront them.  We will take a look back at what he said during his historic campaign and what has he has said during his transition to the presidency; additionally, and more importantly, we will follow the president and report on what he says and does about the threat during his presidency. Also, as part of this series, we will provide highlights from the various cyber reports and position papers written in attempt to influence the president as he crafts his policy and agenda as it relates to the cyber threat.

On the Trail

It was a long, tough campaign and much has been said regarding the many differences between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. It may have been assumed by the voters that, because John McCain is a retired, decorated naval officer, a storied prisoner of war, and a seasoned US senator, he would be much tougher president when dealing with National Security issues and threats than would Barack Obama, a relatively inexperience politician and one who spent no time in the military.

But in reviewing the rhetoric and speeches of the campaign trail in the context of the cyber threats toward the United States, it appears that Barack Obama does understand the danger, the complexity, and the immediacy of these threats. One of the most telling insight to the candidate’s understanding of the threat and how he intends to deal with it can be found in a July 16, 2008, speech from the SUMMIT ON CONFRONTING NEW THREATS at Purdue University.

As President, I’ll make cyber security the top priority that it should be in the 21st century. I’ll declare our cyber-infrastructure a strategic asset, and appoint a National Cyber Advisor who will report directly to me. We’ll coordinate efforts across the federal government, implement a truly national cyber-security policy, and tighten standards to secure information – from the networks that power the federal government, to the networks that you use in your personal lives.

To protect our national security, I’ll bring together government, industry, and academia to determine the best ways to guard the infrastructure that supports our power. Fortunately, right here at Purdue we have one of the country’s leading cyber programs. We need to prevent terrorists or spies from hacking into our national security networks. We need to build the capacity to identify, isolate, and respond to any cyber-attack. And we need to develop new standards for the cyber security that protects our most important infrastructure – from electrical grids to sewage systems; from air traffic control to our markets.

From the CSWW perspective, it appears that candidate Obama had a grasp of the broader cyber-related issues. Though many of his points are not new – a closer relationship between government, academia, and industry, for instance, has been talked about since the Clinton presidency, and some of his points deserve more debate and discussion than others – it’s undetermined how effective a cyber advisor can truly be, but what is most noteworthy–and most hopeful–from the speech is his vow to “make cyber security the top priority that it should be in the 21st century.”

Although the soldier will tell us that “hope is not a course of action,” still, let us hope that an Obama presidency will certainly make securing out national cyber network the high priority that it deserves.


Next up: Part II – The Transition

CSWW encourages your comments, feedback, and criticism throughout this series.


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