Cyberspace, one of a host of once-exotic words now in the everyday vocabulary, isn’t the mysterious sort of “Star Wars” frontier it used to be. But its further development and exploration demand closer scrutiny, and the possibilities that some could travel around in it and continue hacking, another word that’s now too common, have caused President Obama to act.
He has signed an executive order, the only way the president can get things done these days with a recalcitrant Congress, to promote information-sharing among private businesses and with the government. A cyberattack, Obama rightly says, demands quick action. Hackers can do great damage to personal financial records and thus the finances of average Americans and to businesses.
Cyberattacks have hit most notably, or infamously, Sony Pictures, Home Depot and Anthem. When retail businesses are involved, the damage ultimately harms consumers.
It is in everyone’s interest, including the government’s, for companies to share pertinent information with one another and the government to find out how attacks happen and what measures can stop them. Cooperation among all those groups isn’t easy to achieve – unless, of course, it has the words “self interest” attached to it, which in the case of patrolling cyberspace, it most emphatically does.
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Republicans in Congress, of course, want to go their own way with regulation and are criticizing the president every time he goes to the drawer in the Oval Office with the “executive order” forms in it. But Darrell West, a technology specialist with the respected Brookings Institution, rightly notes that Congress hasn’t been able to “pass cybersecurity due to partisanship and different views between the parties about the role of government.”
Precisely. Would Congress simply prefer for the president of the United States to do nothing except issue an occasional veto until his second term runs out? Sadly, and wrongly, that’s what too many Republicans really would want.