Sunday, July 09, 2017

US-Russia cybersecurity talks: right script, wrong actors?

Should the US and Russia hold talks on cybersecurity? A lot of people are shouting "No!" and I think I understand why, but in my opinion that's the wrong answer, albeit for the right reasons. Just consider these two propositions:

A. The US and Russia should, bilaterally and globally, seek ways to deter cybercrime and reduce cyberconflict.

B. President Trump and President Putin should, bilaterally and globally, seek ways to deter cybercrime and reduce cyber-conflict.

I would argue that A is not only a good idea but has an aura of historical inevitability, while B is a very disquieting prospect. Why? Because I don't think the Trump administration understands how diplomatic negotiation works, not to mention the fact that Trump himself has openly disparaged many of the very people whose expertise and cooperation is needed to protect US interests during such negotiations.

In other words, I believe the US and Russia, and every other country, must work together to deter cybercrime and reduce cyber-conflict. That is the right script. That is the direction the world will take, if not now, then at some point in the future. But Trump and Putin are the wrong actors for this script; both lack the levels of credibility and legitimacy required to make meaningful progress.

"Good luck with that"

Of course, I am accustomed to hearing "Good luck with that" and "Ain't gonna happen" when I say to people "international cooperation and global treaties are the only way to make a serious dent in cybercrime and cyberconflict." But history tells me I am right, even if doesn't tell me how old I will be when that eventually proves to be true.