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President Obama Rejuvenates the Cyber Troops: Is the Private Sector be on Board?

This past week, President Obama met with tech gurus at Stanford University to discuss cybersecurity and emphasized the need to focus more efforts on combating cyber security threats. The theme of his speech was the unification of efforts by the private sector and public sector. The flexibility of the private sector combined with the wealth of data collected by the government could, the President hopes make for an aggressive partnership capable of combating cyber threats. While the President’s remarks were very broad, a plenary session of corporate leaders spoke about two issues that might define a cyber security relationship. First, the need to reduce outdated legislation that hinders cyber protection efforts and Second, the definition of “data” that is to be shared.


During a plenary panel, led by Director of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, corporate leaders talked about the the growing need to face cyber threats facing their industries and hurdles to doing so. One of the themes that each executive touched on was that outdated legislation and regulatory measures hinder the company’s ability to face modern threats. For example, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, highlighted that limits on access to customers via text messaging and email hindered Amex’s ability to rapidly respond to such threats. Additionally, Mr. Chenault called for greater transparency in the way in which the government collects and shares it’s data with private industry, claiming that less than 1% of all threats facing Amex were sourced from government entities.


Mr. Bernard Thompson, from Kaiser Permanente emphasized that private industry should not be willing to blindly hand over their data to the government. Healthcare data is sensitive information and he said that the relationship between government and private industry should be clearly defined by the type of data industry is willing to share. He emphasized that he would under no circumstances be willing to share “content” with the government, but would provide information about those attempting to gain access to that content. Mr. Thompson reiterated the point that outdated legislation continues to hinder Kaiser Permanente’s ability to face growing threats.

Financial and Healthcare corporations like American Express and Kaiser Permanente respectively, have built their reputations on trust with their customers. Any talk of data sharing will need to be clearly defined. Additionally, any government led cyber security policy will inevitably usher in a series of new regulations and with them regulatory cost. Corporations, unlike our sluggish bureaucracy must make cuts were new regulatory measures are needed to be enforced. A certain degree of deregulation of outdated measures will be necessary to help corporations create a lean cyber fighting mechanisms.



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