Funding the War on Cybercrime

Funding the War on Cybercrime
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In 1851, the world got a little faster.

That’s the year the first world’s fair opened in London. Six million people visited and marveled at the new technology on display, and watched with pleasure as men traded telegraphed messages instantly between London and Manchester. The defeat of distance was magical, and it was just the beginning.

Good connections transform society. And the exhibition visitors not only sensed a new age, they felt it rushing in and welcomed the transformation.

They were right. By 1873, news traveled instantly to and from over 20,000 towns worldwide. Instant communication and other technological developments created a new world in the 20th century, one that grew more connected and dependent on technology as the pace of change grew ever faster.

Our 21st century is another new, yet very different age, and the public’s mood about technology has altered. Just this year, we’ve seen a cyber-Watergate with the Democratic National Committee, and intruders are poised to meddle further with our elections. We’ve seen a 300 percent increase in ransomware. We’ve also seen central banks like the one in Bangladesh looted of millions.

Analysts estimate that cybercrime overall caused about $3 trillion in damage in 2015; one report from Cybersecurity Ventures says the sum will jump to $6 trillion in 2021. That’s about three times the nominal GDP of India today. But in fact there is no good way to estimate the cost of a future deferred. We do know that if the telegraph had been deferred, the loss in prosperity would have been enormous.

What can we do?

First, the world must train more cybersecurity professionals. They maintain the soundest locks in history and strategize endlessly against the criminal infrastructure. There is a vast and urgent need for more. Cisco estimates that, worldwide, one million jobs remain unfilled in cybersecurity; that figure will probably grow each year and universities must redouble efforts to provide these cyber warriors.

Second, we need better education for the public. Everyone understands a robbery in a bank, but for many, cybercrime feels abstract and unreal. It’s harder to think about what you don’t comprehend. Careless people are the primary entry point for these thieves, and we need to teach individuals how to, in a sense, walk under the bright lights of the Internet and not take rides from strangers. Universities will help keep people informed as digital threats mutate.

Third, we must encourage those who can to fund the technology needed to thwart cybercrime. Many organizations are working on the problem, but fundamental breakthroughs have always come from universities, the foundation of modern science and technology. That’s why the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, “Universities create the future.” You can see it emerging in universities and the many beneficiaries of its knowledge transfer, such as science parks, consultancies, and companies. We all know about the big changes wrought by campus-bred companies like Google, but universities give us innovations on every level.

If you recall, universities helped create the Internet itself. So it’s no surprise they are the innovators in cybersecurity research and education. At NYIT, we’ve been advancing the field for the past 10 years and hosting conferences for seven, including one this week, to bring together foremost experts from business, government, and academia, to spur dialog and find solutions to cybersecurity challenges. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency named us a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, one of only eight in New York. We’ve also just established Cisco Academies on our campuses in New York, Vancouver, and Abu Dhabi. With our partner Cisco, we’ll give hands-on, experience-based training in these labs to both students and professionals.

Last August, DHS awarded preliminary funding of $1.3 million to 13 firms to further research blockchain data structures that keep bitcoin secure, and that may keep websites secure as well. But we can’t succeed without more funding. And it can’t come soon enough.

The United States spent more than a trillion dollars on the War on Drugs. The War in Iraq has cost perhaps four trillion total, so far. That kind of funding to end cybercrime would more than pay for itself. President Obama recently created a new position of cybersecurity chief and asked Congress for $19 billion to secure the government. We’ll need much more to secure the Internet.

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