When the French began construction of a vast fortification system of steel and concrete tank obstacles, artillery casements and machine gun nests along her border with Germany and Italy in 1930, the Maginot Line was hailed as an astounding feat of military engineering.
While the fortification successfully discouraged direct attack, its place in the annals of military history was etched when Hitler’s Panzer divisions easily flanked its concrete entrenchments, pushed past the Ardennes, through the Low countries, and conquered France in a matter of days.
Let’s not forget that while impervious to frontal attack, air-conditioned and serviced by underground railways, the Line proved impossibly expensive, ruinous to France’s military’s budget and utterly ineffectual. It’s now exists, in perpetuity, amidst casual, international parlance — forever synonymous with a well-intentioned but short-sighted strategy, experts hope will prove effective, but instead fails miserably.
Thinking along these lines, at the tail-end of March, I penned a piece for the main site regarding the battle for cyber-security, which has found its way to the United States Congress. Lawmakers and the White House are currently fanning the flames of cyber-cataclysm.
As I wrote:
Two competing bills have emerged in the Senate — the first being the “Cybersecurity Act of 2012,” co-authored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), that would require computer systems from “critical industry” sectors meet security benchmarks established by the Department of Homeland Security. A competing bill — titled “SECURE IT” — was subsequently introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who agrees in principle with a legislative response to the danger of cyber-attacks, but worries about the potential drawbacks of arbitrary, or ineffectual, regulatory burdens on private enterprise. His bill promotes an information sharing architecture between the public and private sectors.
My piece suggested that the Lieberman-Collins bill (and White House rhetoric in its support) offers little more than a virtual Maginot Line, constructed on a framework of vibrant imagination, a willingness to assume the worst and the hair-on-fire judgment of good intentions gone awry.
In essence, Lieberman-Collins enlists the Department of Homeland Security (my least favorite federal agency, and arguably the most inefficient and cumbersome destination for your tax dollars) to regulate private industry’s defense against all shapes and sizes of cyber-attack.
As Neil Stevens over at RedState.com notes:
If we bring DHS into it, we’re multiplying obligations and creating redundancy. That’s harmful, not helpful. Security requires clarity of design and of purpose. Mistakes come with complexity, and successful attacks are born in mistakes.
The fact that the private sector leads the league in technological defense against cyber-attack might suggest why the Chamber of Commerce opposes Lieberman-Collins, in preference of McCain’s SECURE IT. Not to mention the National Association of Manufacturers, US Telecom, Tech America, et cetera, ad infinitum. You get the point.
In search of an exclamation point on the argument against government regulation of cyber-security efforts implemented by the private sector? Perhaps you caught Monday’s Washington Post report noting cyber-security headaches at the Commerce Department:
The virus struck in an e-mail 81 days ago, flagged by a federal team that monitors cyberthreats. The target was a small job-development bureau in the Commerce Department. The infiltration was so vicious it put Commerce’s entire computer network at risk.
To avert a crisis, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) unplugged its operating system — and plunged its staff into the bureaucratic Dark Ages.
E-mail? Gone. Attachments, scans, Google searches? Until further notice, no such thing.
Employees became reacquainted with their neighborhood post office and the beep-squeak-hiss of the fax spitting out paper. The must-have office supply became toner for the machine.
Twelve weeks offline and the longest intrusion into a federal network in recent history is still wreaking havoc.
“We don’t yet have any deeper understanding of what happened,” Commerce Secretary John Bryson said in an interview. “But we have the best resources in the federal government looking into this.”
Of course, Bryson is out stumping for the Obama-approved Lieberman legislation, despite the fact that the “best” resources in federal government can’t protect the Fed’s virtual shores absent defense-technology developed in the private sector — the very same industry they’re now trying to commandeer.
Talk about well-intentioned but short-sighted. Thanks… but “no thanks” on Lieberman’s Maginot maintenance of the American cybernate.
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