The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Conscripting Cyber Experts to Protect IT

Citizen Cyber Army Defends National Computer System
Conscripting Cyber Experts to Protect IT

Imagine drafting the top IT security minds into a defense force to protect the nation's critical IT infrastructure. Impossible? Highly unlikely in the United States, but leaders in Estonia - victimized by a digital invasion in 2007 believed to be backed by Russia - are mulling the possibility of instituting such a draft.

Since that virtual invasion - when a wave of attacks shuttered government, financial and media IT systems - IT and IT security professionals and enthusiasts in the Baltic nation have formed the Cyber Defense League, a volunteer group that could act as a unified military command if and when the next cyberassault occurs.

A report Tuesday on NPR says a sense of cyber vulnerability in Estonia has been a key rallying point for the Cyber Defense League. And, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo says it's so important for Estonia to have a skilled cyber army that the authorities may institute a draft to assure every IT expert is available in a national emergency:

"We are thinking of introducing this conscript service, a cyber service. This is an idea that we've been playing around [with]. We don't have the mechanism or laws in place, but it might be one option."

Estonia, unlike the United States, drafts young men into its military, and a defense ministry poll shows that 94 percent of Estonians support conscription, according to the website BalticReports.com. Says Aaviksoo:

"Military service is the matter of honor where you men learn to share values that tie our whole nation."

America ended the military draft in 1973, and it's hard to imagine conscripting anyone to serve in a virtual army in the United States.

But the concept of a volunteer force in the U.S. to aid defending the nation's critical IT systems isn't that farfetched. Erik Laykin proposed such a cyber corps in a pair of blogs posted last spring on GovInfoSecurity.com: National Cyber Corps: Recruiting the Best and National Cyber Corps: Pulling It Off. Laykin, an authority on cybercrime, electronic fraud, data breaches and corporate espionage, contends many IT professionals want to contribute to securing our country's virtual homeland but the financial lure from the private sector is too great for many of them to ignore. The cyber corps in Laykin's vision would be a stepping stone to a rewarding career in the private sector for many IT security pros:

"Initially, the National Cyber Corps would rely heavily on recruitment and incentives, but over time participation in the National Cyber Corps would become a sought-after honor and ultimate reward."

A pipedream? Perhaps. But with a shortage of IT expertise in government, the concept of the public and private sectors collaborating to protect our digital resources isn't something we can ignore.



About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Host & Producer, ISMG Security Report; Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity & InfoRiskToday

Chabrow hosts and produces the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversees ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.




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