Diplomacy Series Studies U.S. Cyber Security Challenges
The Center for International Studies hosted a luncheon for community leaders and students about international cyber security challenges on Feb. 25, which included Dr. Christopher Bronk from Rice University’s Baker Institute and FBI Special Agent Cody Monk.
Bronk, a former U.S. foreign service officer, spoke about the cyber security risks and challenges the United States faces in the international business arena. Bronk is the Baker Institute Fellow in Information Technology Policy, and holds appointments in the Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies, Rice University’s Department of Computer Science, and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, finishing his tenure at the State Department in its Office of Diplomacy.
Monk previously served as the Counterintelligence Division's Academic Alliance national program manager, where he oversaw the Bureau's outreach to the academic community and managed the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board.
The presentation was part of the Center’s Distinguished Diplomacy Program, which aims to improve and expand understanding of diplomacy as involving more than the traditional diplomacy conducted by states. Diplomacy, as a skill set, is an integral process within and between international organizations, non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations.
Bronk discussed the activity taking place in the virtual world today. One statistic is telling: currently there are more Internet-accessible devices in the world than there are people. In order to truly understand the level at which the internet has become so essential to the fabric of today’s world, Bronk explained that in places where there is geographical and political isolation from the rest of the world, the Internet is “stitching” isolated peoples together.
As an example, Bronk pointed to Jakarta, Indonesia, where users account for 2.5 percent of all activity on Twitter.
As access to the Internet grows, the possibilities for security breaches increase exponentially. Monk said this is a U.S. national security focus for the FBI. Cyber security is not a “techy issue just in Silicon Valley,” Monk emphasized, but a real and close concern for all citizens. From local water systems, to huge corporate monoliths such as Google, all have become victims of hacking. The immense growth of the Internet has equally fostered “new responsibilities we need to undertake,” Monk said.
Businesses face double the threat. They are targeted by foreign nationally-owned competition, and foreign private competition. The Internet is huge and there is “plenty of work to go around” Bronk said. It is a new type of “arms race,” to design improved tools with which to protect and encrypt sensitive information, as it becomes easier for nefarious actors to break into secured information.
By Juliette Casas, international studies student