The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has published a superb document – Contested Commons: The Future of American Power in a Multipolar World (January 2010). It covers comprehensively all the various domains and is a weighty tome. My interest in it is the fifth chapter, “American Security in the Cyber Commons” (pg. 137-176). If it stood alone, it would be one of the best documents on the issues in the cyber realm I have seen. Being put in the back end of an excellent larger publication, I am afraid it could be easily overlooked.

It traces the issue, discusses the nature of the Cyber commons, all great background. It discusses the concept of power in Cyber, and how it differs from power in the temporal world. There is an excellent comparison of Cyber to the other domains, which is a great help in understanding the difficulties in addressing cyber challenges. It covers a “who does what to whom” look at governmental responsibilities and gives a comprehensive look at threats and vulnerabilities in cyber space. Lastly in the “set up” potion of the chapter, it discusses governance, both domestically and internationally.

It then branches off into the most interesting section: New Perspectives on the Cyber Commons. They take an idea raised at a CNAS breakfast and do a complete treatment of the concept. This looks at the entire cyber issue using a Public Health Model. Their comparison of the response to Conficker with the response to Swine Flu was fascinating. They make a very compelling argument. I admit that I am an adherent of this view and have written about it in this blog space as well as for my employer, IBM. But CNAS gives great intellectual weight to the concepts, and I believe they drive it home.

There is ample evidence that a new way of addressing the Cyber world is needed. The CNAS paper is another proof of how effective alternative views can be in providing explanatory power and understanding. The idea that cyber public health and safety and cyber personal hygiene are keys must be promulgated. It is the right way to go, and the need is great. I strongly recommend the CNAS paper. It is all good, but is worth obtaining just for Chapter 5. CNAS should consider publishing a standalone version.

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