Cooperation Key to Security in the Cyber Domain

Government agencies and the private sector must determine ways to cooperate to defeat cyberthreats or both could face catastrophic consequences. For the commercial sector, individual companies or even entire economic sectors could face total collapse. For the government, the critical infrastructure could suffer attacks that permanently alter the way of life for hundreds of millions of people.

These were a few of the assessments top industry and government leaders shared at the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium (, which took place this week in Baltimore. Discussions during the symposium laid bare the need for cooperation to defeat increasingly dangerous cybermarauders.

During his keynote speech, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, USN, commander, U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), listed improvements in situational awareness, automated decision-making and a new way to refresh work force skills as the key items the military needs from industry.

CYBERCOM faces some unique challenges in partnering with industry. “How do we bring together expertise from the private sector and academia with government?” he asked. “How do we do that when one of the partners is not fully trusted?” Adm. Rogers allowed.

The admiral elaborated, stating that a trusted environment is essential. “If we can’t create an environment with a dynamic information flow and information sharing on a real-time basis, it’s like we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our backs,” he declared. “Cyber is the ultimate team sport.”

Unlike sports, however, fighting cybermarauders requires international cooperation. This is difficult, however, when each nation has different criteria for security measures and pursuing different areas of interest.

Lt. Gen. Johannes Kert, military representative of the Estonian Delegation, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, offered the lessons his nation learned in the wake of a massive cyber attack in 2007. “There are no good solutions when you are under cyber attack. There are only bad and very bad solutions. You have to train, train and train beforehand,” he stated.

On the international front, cooperative defense faces some tough challenges. One point several NATO officials discussed was that the alliance does not yet have a cyber policy for its Article 5, which defines that collaborative defense. Dr. Velizar Shalamanov, director, demand management, NATO Communications and Information Agency, allowed that it is difficult to define an Article 5 attack in the cyber domain. He suggested that, in a cyber attack, Article 4 (consultation) and Article 6 (crisis management) might be applied before Article 5.

Additional coverage of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium is available online (

AFCEA International, established in 1946, is a non-profit membership association serving the military, government, industry and academia.