Critical Care

Agencies face enormous obstacles in securing vital networks, but failure isn't an option.

It seems that every week we learn about another data breach of a government or commercial network. If you think you've come through these assaults unscathed, you're wrong. Even if you haven't seen your diplomatic cables posted on WikiLeaks or your Gmail account hasn't been hijacked (to your knowledge), even if your organization doesn't have contracts with Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton or any of the countless other corporate behemoths whose networks have been hacked in recent months, you still pay a price. Cybercrime and cyber espionage undermine our economic strength and weaken our national security. Developments in technology have far outstripped our legal and regulatory levers for protecting data and government leaders are scrambling to fill the void.

To take a closer look at the evolving state of cybersecurity, Government Executive has produced this special issue of the magazine devoted to exploring the risks and opportunities associated with one of the most intractable challenges the federal government faces. As Nextgov's senior correspondent Aliya Sternstein writes in an introduction framing the challenge, "Cybersecurity has no international or public-private boundaries, and thus no easy regulatory, behavioral or technological fix." While the Obama administration and Congress work to craft better cyber laws, government leaders would do well to reconsider how they think about the threat. So say contributors P.W. Singer and Noah Shachtman in a provocative essay that takes policymakers to task for misapplying Cold War rhetoric to a threat more akin to piracy. James Andrew Lewis and Daniel Gallington, both cyber experts and former federal executives, offer clear-eyed assessments of the threat and government's potential role in mitigating it. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves also shares his insights. He learned a thing or two about cybersecurity after Estonia's government and banking websites came under sustained and coordinated assault in 2007. And finally, Brittany Ballenstedt describes how agencies are coping with the most critical challenge of all-finding, hiring and keeping people with essential computer security skills.

If all this leaves you looking for even more resources, please pull out your smartphone and snap a picture of the QR code on this page (you may first need to download one of the many free QR reader apps available). It will take you to a page on Nextgov, our digital publication focused on technology in government, where you can learn more about cybersecurity and watch video interviews with experts.

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