President Joe Biden recently met with Big Tech executives to discuss how to improve cybersecurity after recent cyberattacks in which government software contractor Solarwinds and oil pipeline Colonial Pipeline were targeted. Leading tech corporations, including IBM, Google, and Amazon, will all try to improve cybersecurity by investing in the training of personnel in this field and upgrading their respective encryption and security systems. Microsoft has also committed to investing $150 million in upgrades for cybersecurity systems of government agencies. Big Tech may not always do the right thing, but these plans to enhance cybersecurity are certainly something that we can all stand behind.
In recent years, as the Internet has become increasingly influential and indispensable, cybersecurity has, correspondingly, become an increasingly prominent threat to not only citizens’ privacy but also to national security. Former national-security adviser John Bolton explained the significance of cybersecurity to national defense in a recent National Review article, in which he characterized threats from cyberspace as “a multiplicity of hidden, ever-changing threats.” A recent report by the Heritage Foundation raised concern over espionage, trading of secrets, and the disruption of military commands and communication potentially being conducted in the cyber domain.
The effective regulation of cyberspace, a relatively new front for modern warfare characterized by its elusiveness and lack of boundaries, is sometimes challenging. Laxness in cybersecurity, however, has often led to catastrophic consequences. For instance, the WannaCry Ransomware Cyber Attack in 2017, in which files in affected computer systems were locked until ransom was paid for their decryption, affected approximately 200,000 computers in 150 countries and led to enormous financial costs. Victims of the cyber-extortion scheme included entities from government agencies such as the English National Health Service to major international corporates such as Boeing.
It is well established that both the state and leading tech corporations have a legitimate interest in enhancing cybersecurity. The government is responsible for engaging in national defense in the cyber domain and tech corporations are obligated to protect the privacy of their users, whose personal information is often entrusted to them.
Big Tech’s plans to cooperate with the government to improve cybersecurity through financial investments appears to be promising. While it may be difficult to predict the effectiveness of such investments, the fact that Big Tech and the government are placing the enhancement of cybersecurity close to the top of their agenda and are committing to coordinated efforts is good news. Big Tech, with its financial prowess derived from the sheer size of the industry, and a unique relationship with the use of cyberspace, is uniquely positioned to materially contribute to state-led efforts to secure cyberspace. Furthermore, investing in education on cybersecurity of employees may also be useful in raising awareness and amplifying the industry’s collective concern over capacity to combat cyberattacks in the long run.