Once again, I join with my blogging colleagues in offering some predictions for the coming year. I have kept it to six, so as not to get carried away, and I kept them general, so I have a better chance of being right. Some are nearly no-brainers, but several are definitely going out on a limb. I will let the readers judge if I am “sawing” on the correct side or not. Here goes:

1. Cyber will grow in importance this year. After a year of waiting for some movement and leadership from the Administration, it will finally begin. Additionally, many experts are pointing to an up-tick in terrorist use of the Internet and ever growing bad-guy cyber activity. If we want to have a chance of ever getting ahead of them, we need to focus on it now. Cyber is the way of the future (now too), and we get to it or fail.

2. Technology companies will claim that their appliances and software have “solved” the problem of security. We will improve, but we will not even be close to “victory” by the end of the year. Keep at it all you engineers, but the lawyers, policy makers and legislators will always have the final say.

3. The hottest job opportunities will be for “cyber samurai.” If you have the skills to defend networks, and the vision to apply your skills, you will be overwhelmed with job offers. A small group will work the offensive side (maximum 20 percent), but most will be hired to defend the crown jewels. If you have the capability to learn these skills, you’d be a fool not to. Bad guys will want you too, but it will become a dangerous and dicey business if you go that way. Organized crime may pay better, but they don’t just “dismiss” employees. Go legitimate.

4. The Administration will finally launch a national Cyber Education and Awareness Campaign. This long awaited and needed action will seem like a small stone thrown into the ocean, but if we persist, it will make a difference. It must target kids, elders, colleges, and the entire spectrum of the work force. It will start slowly and grow in importance.

5. There will be a major internal blowup over cyber security within the Obama Administration. Howard Schmidt, the Cyber Coordinator, will push hard on a department for a change, and the Cabinet Secretary will push back. It will probably involve budgetary control (this is Washington after all), and the President will need to decide who to support. It will begin low key and quiet, but will leak and become public. The POTUS will probably support the cabinet Secretary this first time. Schmidt will continue to push, with vocal support from Capital Hill. The fight will continue, and the next time…who knows?

6. There will be a major cyber event that negatively impacts one of the Nation’s infrastructure sectors (financial, electrical power, communications…?) and the President will be pressured to act. It will not be big enough to be considered an act of war, but it will be hostile enough to see demands for retaliation. It will be perpetrated by a non-peer competitor, so “big war” will not be an issue. The President will have to weigh the use of our own cyber weapons or old school kinetic ones. He will go with cyber, and our first cyber contingency operation will take place.

I hope I am wrong about number six, but I am fairly confident in one through five. More and more companies are building cyber business units, and nearly all the government departments and agencies are desperately trying to develop workable strategies to defend their networks. 2010 will be the year we are forced to take Cyber Security seriously.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More