The Past, Present, and Future of Cybersecurity

The cyber threat is the most pervasive and pernicious threat facing the United States today. Its mention does not immediately conjure visions of the catastrophic horrors that would result from an attack using a weapon of mass destruction, but today’s cyber threat is a very real and present danger. As of September 14, 2009, more than 10,450,000 U.S. residents had been victimized by identity theft in 2009 alone, and that number increases by one victim each second.2 Fifteen million victims will lose more than fifty billion dollars each year.3 Specific threats such as identity and consumer fraud allow us to quantify and understand part of the cyber threat in terms that allow the U.S. government,4 corporate America,5 consumer groups, and individuals6 to take preventive action. However, the growing number of victims would clearly suggest we have not effectively solved the problem, even if we are starting to comprehend its scope.

The cyber threat to U.S. national security, economic security, and public health and safety is far more amorphous and less susceptible of comprehension than its kinetic analogs. Popular media productions such as 247 and Live Free or Die Hard8 have depicted sophisticated cyber intrusions that intentionally caused aircraft collisions, a nuclear power plant meltdown, a compromise of White House security and communications…

Lead Author

Walter Gary Sharp, Sr.
Dr. Walter Gary Sharp, Sr. serves as an Associate Deputy General Counsel for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense where he is responsible for providing advice on international and national security law issues related to the worldwide activities and operations of the U.S. Armed Forces. A noted and published authority on national security law and strategy, his current areas of responsibility include providing legal advice on all aspects of national and agency level strategic communication; information operations; offensive and defensive computer network operations; critical infrastructure protection; the Proliferation Security Initiative; weapons of mass destruction; terrorism and counterterrorism; maritime security operations; peace, stability, and humanitarian operations; interagency and coalition operations; law of war; rules of engagement; and deployment of forces.
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