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All The Wrong Moves

Government missteps could make security tougher for everyone

2:15 PM -- Let's be clear: There's a ton of people in government who understand IT security. It's all the other people in government that I'm worried about.

Over the past week, we've seen governments becoming more involved in IT security issues and trends than ever before -- and as these events shake out, I'm not sure that's a good thing.

In Eastern Europe, Estonia and Russia are deeply embroiled in what could only be called the first incidence of all-out cyber war. As denial-of-service attacks continue on Estonian government systems, many businesses are beginning to wonder whether their own infrastructures might one day be pulled into cyber struggles between governments. (See Unknown Document 125416, Estonian Attacks Raise Fears of Cyber 'Nuclear Winter', and DOS Gets Political in Estonia.)

Is Estonia an isolated case? Not hardly. Governments are now recognizing cyber war as a new field of operations. Just look at China's revelations this week about its plans for cyber strikes. Talk about putting computers at risk... (See China to Use Computer Viruses as Cyberwarfare First Strike.)

You'd think that with so much military knowledge at their disposal, governments would have a better grip on how to handle IT security problems at home. Not so. In fact, both Germany and the U.S. this week advanced controversial legislation that, in some critics' eyes, might actually worsen the computer crime situation. Germany's law could threaten the activities of security researchers; the U.S. Spy bill could create a new law that's built around outmoded technology. (See New Laws Don't Solve Global Problems.)

And, of course, there's the question of whether government should clean up its own security act before advising others. A new survey from SecureInfo Corp. says many government workers still don't know about their key compliance specifications -- despite having completed training courses about security. (See Fed Workers Still in the Dark.)

Can government make a difference in the IT security picture? Absolutely. But based on the past week's events, I'm wondering whether the finished picture will look worse, rather than better.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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