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Cybercrime, Not an Act of War

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Credit: Client provided

Sometimes, when a network is breached, when servers are compromised, or when unencrypted data is at risk, companies will get, or even seek, assistance from government offices. The nature of cybercrime points to the ways in which our digital architectures are interconnected – over the Internet, but also in terms of how sensitive information plays different roles in business and in civic life.

All this to say that leaders in the security community are always focusing on how to define threats, how to promote specific levels of response, and generally, how to more robustly protect systems.

With that in mind, it surprises some security-minded people to know that in some ways, the U.S. government and the Pentagon have not fully come to terms with the scope of cyberwarfare, and that key pieces of counter-cyber-espionage strategy are not yet in place.

At this late date, with the infamous DNC hack and big breaches of many Fortune-500 data systems, with the tech media fairly screaming about cybersecurity, the federal government still has no concrete idea of when a cybercrime constitutes an act of war.

The Cybercrime Controversy

This Slate piece by Fred Kaplan highlights some of the back-and-forth that has gone on over the issue, starting with queries from Robert Gates as Defense Secretary in 2006, and revealing a bit of dissembling on the part of the Pentagon Defense Science Board, along with implications of thorny questions such as how to create a “proportional response” or how to “expel” a piece of the malware as you could a human spy.

It also shows the limits of government involvement. Indeed, even common-sense federal protections to private infrastructure can easily be seen as “Orwellian” or as a government overreach.

However, steps to clarify something like a cyber act of war are unilateral, and therefore not so controversial. It seems likely that what has delayed the implementation of this type of standard is not so much dissent as simple procrastination.

Federal News Radio and other outlets have covered the investigation of Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) into the issue, and a bill sponsored by Rounds, the Cyber Act of War Act of 2016, that was introduced to the House of Representatives in May. The bill still has to go through committee review, and a quick look at tracking site Congress.gov shows no action on the bill since its introduction.

Why is this Important for Private Businesses?

The less leaders address cybercrime and its corrosive effects on both business and civic life, the more businesses have to innovate and pioneer in the field of cyberdefense. In essence, a company is on its own to arm itself with what it needs to ward off hordes of hackers and assorted cybercriminals operating on a global network with few fences.

SentinelOne’s next-generation endpoint and server security tools anticipate this important work, and help to standardize the responses of enterprises. These versatile, proactive security tools are focused on the new perimeter – the endpoint – offering protection from unknown and zero-day attacks using automated behavior detection and machine learning. To what end? Using a heuristic model and machine learning principles, these resources promote threat visibility, where companies can see danger a mile away. Endpoint protection and related processes reduce dwell time, a term that has become something of a spine-shaking buzzword evoking unknown malice lurking in digital systems. There’s a real need for businesses to take those steps of initiative, to “expel” the attempts of hackers and keep a clean house, in an age when no place seems safe from cybercrime.

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