The U.S. president has announced a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for the federal government, saying Internet-based threats have risen "dramatically" and the country "must act to reduce our vulnerabilities."
A 76-page White House document calls for a new way of looking at Internet and computer security, saying that private-public partnerships are necessary, collaboration with international organizations will be vital, and privacy and civil liberties must be respected in the process.
Sound familiar? The year was 2003, and the president was George W. Bush, who wrote the introduction to what he called a "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace."
While the Bush document discusses centralizing cybersecurity responsibilities in the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama document shifts them to the White House, the two reports are remarkably similar. Perhaps this should be no surprise: Obama selected Melissa Hathaway, who worked for the director of national intelligence in the Bush administration and was director of an Bush-era "Cyber Task Force," to conduct the review.
To test your political acumen, we've taken excerpts from both and placed them side by side in the following chart. Can you tell which quotations come from which administration? (An answer key is at the end.)
|#1: Privacy and civil liberties||"The United States needs a partnership between government and industry to perform analyses, issue warnings, and coordinate response efforts. Privacy and civil liberties must be protected in the process."||"Work with the private sector to explore how best to apply technical capabilities to the defense of the national infrastructure and what legal framework would be required to ensure the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties."|
|#2: Sophisticated attacks||"The attack tools and methodologies are becoming widely available, and the technical capability and sophistication of users bent on causing havoc or disruption is improving."||"The growing sophistication and breadth of criminal activity, along with the harm already caused by cyber incidents, highlight the potential for malicious activity in cyberspace to affect U.S. competitiveness."|
|#3: Public-Private partnerships||"The federal government invites the creation of, and participation in, public-private partnerships...The government will continue to support the development of public-private partnerships."||"The federal government should examine existing public-private partnerships to optimize their capacity to identify priorities and enable efficient execution of concrete actions."|
|#4: Crisis responses||"Providing crisis management in response to attacks on critical information systems...In wartime or crisis, adversaries may seek to intimidate by attacking critical infrastructures and key economic functions or eroding public confidence in information systems response."||"The Federal government's obligation to protect the American people and to provide for the common defense includes a responsibility to ensure that the Nation can communicate and respond in times of crisis. The communications system itself might bear the brunt of such events and must have resilience or the capability to recover."|
|#5: Coordination||"The United States must improve interagency coordination between law enforcement, national security,and defense agencies involving cyber-based attacks and espionage..."||"The United States (must) achieve a more reliable, resilient, and trustworthy digital infrastructure for the future.... It presents the need for greater coordination and integrated development of policy."|
|#6: Critical infrastructure||"Our nation's critical infrastructures are composed of public and private institutions in the sectors of agriculture, food, water, public health, emergency services, government, defense industrial base, information and telecommunications, energy, transportation, banking and finance..."||"They have also become essential elements in the operation and management of a range of critical infrastructure functions, including transportation systems, shipping, the electric power grid, oil and gas pipelines, nuclear plants, water systems, critical manufacturing, and many others."|
|#7: Terrorists||"Malicious actors in cyberspace can take many forms including individuals, criminal cartels, terrorists, or nation states...The speed and anonymity of cyber attacks makes distinguishing among the actions of terrorists, criminals, and nation states difficult."||"A growing array of state and non-state actors such as terrorists and international criminal groups are targeting U.S. citizens, commerce, critical infrastructure, and government...Exploitation of information networks and the compromise of sensitive data...leave the United States vulnerable."|
|#8: International cooperation||"Enabling our ability to do so requires a system of international cooperation to facilitate information sharing, reduce vulnerabilities, and deter malicious actors."||"Only by working with international partners can the United States best address these challenges, enhance cybersecurity, and reap the full benefits of the digital age."|
|#9: International organizations||"We are also ready to utilize government-sponsored organizations such as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), G-8,the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), and the Organization of American States (OAS), and other relevant organizations to facilitate global coordination on cybersecurity."||"More than a dozen international organizations including...the Group of Eight, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the Organization of American States, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development...address issues concerning the information and communications infrastructure."|
|#10: Catastrophic attacks||"Providing continuity of government requires ensuring the safety of its own cyber infrastructure and those assets required for supporting its essential missions and services."||"The Federal government's obligation to protect the American people and to provide for the common defense includes a responsibility to ensure that the Nation can communicate and respond in times of crisis."|
Answer key: All of the excerpts from the left column are taken from Bush's National Strategy document from February 2003. The right column represents excerpts from Obama's Cyberspace Policy Review document from May 2009.