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Courtesy of Anne Marie Wright.

On Thursday, April 19, J. Michael Daniel ’92, president of the Cyber Threat Alliance, discussed the implications of a growing cyberspace in his opening address to Cyber Security and Warfare in the 21st Century, a two-day policy conference on campus.

Daniel addressed the common misconception that cybersecurity is a confusing field inaccessible to the general public. As an optimist, Daniel explained that his positive approach necessitates framing the problem of cybersecurity in a way that diverges from the mainstream.

In light of the new challenges and potential vulnerabilities facing society, Daniel explained that the timeliness of the conference. Vulnerabilities have arisen due to the expansion of cyberspace and the internet, which have become, according to Daniel, indispensable tools.

Daniel emphasized that the cybersecurity problem is not a single-faceted challenge.

“Cybersecurity is not just a technical problem,” Daniel explained, adding that there are also political, economic, psychological, and behavioral challenges.

“If you don’t take this all into account, you will fail,” Daniel said.

Daniel previously worked as Cybersecurity Coordinator on the National Security Council staff. He was also Special Assistant to former President Barack Obama, a post in which he developed a national cybersecurity strategy.

Urging caution, Daniel explained that, “The cyber threats we face are very serious. If we don’t begin to address some of the national security threats I’ve laid out here today, the benefits [of cyber technology] could begin to wither.”

Daniel touched upon the speed at which the cybersecurity industry is growing. He explained that cyberspace is an issue unlike any other political challenge because it lacks borders.

Daniel mentioned that every day, cyberspace is expanding by 10 million devices, and by 2020 there will be over 20 billion devices. He added that there are four pressing concerns regarding the growth of cyberspace, explaining that the cyber threat is becoming more broad, more frequent, more dangerous, and more disruptive as we continue to augment the industry.

Cybersecurity is not a two-player game, explained Daniel, adding that when it comes to combating cyber threats, there are many adversaries. 

Known as one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” during his tenure on the NSC, Daniel defied his moniker at the talk, emphasizing that dangerous cyber threats can be combated. He also mentioned that enemies of the state face limitations and constraints in their pursuits, and their pathways for action are limited.

While rightfully recognized as a threat, cyber capabilities can also be used to level the playing field. Daniel pointed to Estonia as an example of a country which is not strong militarily but can still reap benefits from cyberspace.

Daniel concluded that cybersecurity is not a problem to be solved and then ignored. It will not disappear, and therefore is an ongoing risk for our society — one that we need to learn how to manage.

The conference is being co-hosted by the Center for International Security Studies and the Center for Information Technology Policy and will continue with speakers and panels throughout Friday, April 20.

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