Michael Schrage: Is it the Government's Duty to Defend Citizens from Cyber Attacks?

Innovation expert Michael Schrage explores the major questions that have risen from the recent Sony hack. He questions whether hacking and cyberattacks should be treated as mere misdemeanors or as more serious affronts to personal freedom.

Michael Schrage: The Sony hack is a very interesting phenomenon. I think it sort of brings home some of the issues that people in other countries face. The way, for example, North Koreans have hacked South Korea and South Korean financial institutions. And Russians have hacked Ukrainian and Estonian institutions. The whole notion of cyberconflict either as a low-level or high-level conflict has become more and more important and more and more top of mind. And I think the most important takeaway is twofold. One is that "ordinary citizens" should be concerned about whether their data assets — and that includes everything from their social security numbers to their bank accounts to the way their mortgage is held. They should be concerned about how adequately protected that is. But not just — and this is important — not just by the financial institution or the retail institution, but by government. To what extent is protecting American data assets in the U.S. and abroad the obligation and the duty of the government? How well-protected are we in that regard? I believe this is a policy and a question of great, not just national import, but global import because America is a leading nation both in terms of technology and in terms of vulnerability and it raises important questions about what constitutes self-defense in this regard.

Do we run into the situation that we just say, "Well this is a crime so we’ll just have the FBI and law enforcement handle it."? Or is it something else? And, you know, I’m not a lawyer nor do I care to be one, but I think we want to be really, really, really, really, really careful about saying something like, "Oh, it’s just an act of vandalism," or, "Oh, it’s just a misdemeanor." When, in fact, it’s more threatening than that and we may be hurting the safety and security of our citizens by minimizing the kind of threats that are involved here. One last thing I’m going to say here is there is an analogy here, for those people familiar with policing, of a famous broken windows arguments, which is, you know, it’s a low-level crime, ignore it. And crime rates began to drop when we stopped ignoring seemingly minor infractions of the law. When we invested as a society in norms that demanded something other than the absence of, you know, just ignoring things at the margin, but demanding respect for the law. And this, in my view, this is as true outside of the borders of the United States as it is inside the border of the United States. And it’s particularly true when people come across the border of the United States to destroy, to destroy. "Vandalization" is a cute word — to destroy the assets of Americans in the United States. Not cool.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd

Part of the reason you pay taxes is because the government needs to fund programs necessary for accomplishing its most fundamental goal: to protect its citizens' rights and freedoms. Innovation expert Michael Schrage asks how far that responsibility extends into cyberspace. Just as the U.S. government will go after someone who crosses a border to commit heinous crimes, shouldn't it also be obligated to defend its citizens who find themselves the victims of cyberattacks?


"To what extent is protecting American data assets in the U.S. and abroad the obligation and the duty of the government? How well-protected are we in that regard? I believe this is a policy and a question of great, not just national import, but global import because America is a leading nation both in terms of technology and in terms of vulnerability and it raises important questions about what constitutes self-defense in this regard."

The digital economy benefits the 1%. Here’s how to change that.

A pragmatic approach to fixing an imbalanced system.

Videos
  • Intentional or not, certain inequalities are inherent in a digital economy that is structured and controlled by a few corporations that don't represent the interests or the demographics of the majority.
  • While concern and anger are valid reactions to these inequalities, UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan also sees it as an opportunity to take action.
  • Srinivasan says that the digital economy can be reshaped to benefit the 99 percent if we protect laborers in the gig economy, get independent journalists involved with the design of algorithmic news systems, support small businesses, and find ways that groups that have been historically discriminated against can be a part of these solutions.
Surprising Science

The idea that Alzheimer's is a form of diabetic disease has been gaining currency in medical circles for almost ten years. The accumulated evidence is now so strong that many specialists are now comfortable referring to Alzheimer's as type 3 diabetes.

Keep reading

Social media makes breakups worse, study says

Is there a way for more human-centered algorithms to prevent potentially triggering interactions on social media?

Image by Pranch on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • According to a 2017 study, 71% of people reported feeling better (rediscovery of self and positive emotions) about 11 weeks after a breakup. But social media complicates this healing process.
  • Even if you "unfriend", block, or unfollow, social media algorithms can create upsetting encounters with your ex-partner or reminders of the relationship that once was.
  • Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder suggest that a "human-centered approach" to creating algorithms can help the system better understand the complex social interactions we have with people online and prevent potentially upsetting encounters.
Keep reading