Former US security advisor: Cyberattacks damage society as much as physical infrastructure

In an interview at this week’s Global Cybersecurity Summit in Kiev, Ukraine, former deputy national security advisor and deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken told TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson that the threat posed by cyberattacks to human infrastructure, meaning what we think and believe, is as important as the threat to physical infrastructure

The best defense against the threat to human infrastructure, Blinken said, is a population of educated consumers with strong critical thinking abilities.

During the interview, Blinken recommended the following solutions to present cyberthreats:

  • Demanding a collective response from groups like academic institutions, corporations, NGOs
  • Better defense, in the form of public-private partnerships to strengthen defenses against cyberattacks
  • Creation of international cybersecurity norms and standards so there’s “at least a floor on how people behave and act.”
  • Measures to impose costs on entities who carry out cyberattacks

The conversation also touched on ways organizations can plan future cyberdefense strategies. Blinken said that right now, organizations are not great at “thinking around the corner,” or considering how technology created today might be used as a weapon in the future. The same energy that goes into innovation needs to go into anticipating potential consequences and how to guard against them, said Blinken.

When asked what’s really keeping him up at night, Blinken pointed to tensions between those who feel the best way to respond to societal and technological challenges is to protect themselves and “build a wall,” and those who feel the best way to respond is to remain an open society and mitigate any threats that arise. But he also mentioned the power of using technology creatively to start talking and listening to each other again, and said he’s ultimately hopeful about the future.

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