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U.S. Needs Deterrence Strategy in Cyberspace

February 23, 2011
By George Seffers

Creating a deterrence strategy in cyberspace similar to the Cold War approach to nuclear weapons is a difficult proposition, according to Gen. Keith Alexander, USA, who commands U.S. Cyber Space Command and is director of the National Security Agency.

 "There is no deterrence model out there analogous to what we had during the Cold War for nuclear détente. If you think about it, there are no rules of the road yet. There are no norms. We don't have all that figured out, so there is no deterrence strategy. In fact, I would posit that it is much more difficult to have a deterrent strategy in cyber space because all countries, nation states and non-nation states, can have these capabilities in cyberspace," says Alexander.

Speaking at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference, Alexander called for greater cyber situational awareness and a more active network defense. He also said government can protect the nation's networks while also protecting individual privacy and civil liberties, and he called for the public to demand more secure technologies.

 Alexander offered several statistics to demonstrate what he called a phenomenal rate of change. He said that there are now 2.06 billion Internet users worldwide and that in 2010, 107 trillion e-mails were sent, which equals about 294 billion per day, 89 percent of which were spam. In addition, there were 35 billion tweets last year, which he predicts will "really take off this year." Facebook just crossed 600 million users. If they were a country, Facebook users would be the third largest nation on Earth. In 2001, the average person had less than a gigabit of storage. In 2010, that was 128 gigabits, and in 2020 it is predicted to be 131 terabits, according to Alexander. "It took two centuries to build the Library of Congress-29 million books, 2.4 million recordings, 4.8 million maps, 57 million manuscripts. Today, that would take five minutes on the network. Five minutes," he says.

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