Here’s a quick exercise. Tally up the most important things in your life that rely on the internet. Your checking account, life savings, data storage, balance sheets, family photos, health records, rolodex, business procurement, travel plans, ride home — all accessible, and as a result, at risk, online.
In less than one generation, global citizens have completed the greatest transfer of goods, services and currency in human history — from checkbooks and briefcases to 1s and 0s. And, we do so with profound trust in the innovators and industries that serve these needs, and the global digital infrastructure providers who make it all possible.
As representatives of these institutions — the software developers, broadband providers, network services, connected device and hardware manufacturers and more — we understand the stakes could not be higher in maintaining this trust and security. Succeeding at this task means nothing less than our long-term political, economic, and social survival.
Over the past two decades, the exponential growth of internet-connected devices worldwide has transformed our global economy. By 2020, the new digital economy could add $1.36 trillion to the GDP of the world’s top ten economies. With over 30 billion internet of things devices in the market today, the United States’ digital economic output alone makes up one-third of U.S. GDP — $5.9 trillion dollars.
With emerging technology and new devices hitting the market every day, in spite of our best efforts, this growth is accompanied by significant cybersecurity risks. Often, the industries that have the most to lose are the biggest targets of cybercriminals, including health care, government, critical infrastructure and education.
While both industry and government have made significant advances in applying security measures to defend our global digital infrastructure, they have been operating with a handicap. Less than needed strategic and operational coordination across sectors and between nation-states has kept existing, effective security-enhancing tools and methods from disseminating, to the detriment of the internet ecosystem as a whole.
In order to combat these malicious cyber threats as quickly as they develop, stakeholders from across sectors must effectively develop their own collective “immune system,” capable of preparing for, sharing information about, and responding to a rapidly evolving cyber-virus.
Thankfully, due to the combined recent actions of government, industry and other thought leaders, the inoculation has begun globally.
In the United States, Europe and Asia, recent governmental actions have prioritized improving cybersecurity capabilities, encouraging collaboration with industry to protect critical infrastructure, building international coalitions and training a stronger cybersecurity workforce. In the United States, this includes last year’s presidential executive order and initiatives in the executive branch to work closely with industry to enhance the resiliency of the internet and communications ecosystem against botnets and other automated distributed threats.
And for the first time recently, a global cross section of technology leaders up and down the internet supply chain have announced they will join forces to share information and drive effective, collaborative solutions to common and emerging cyber threats.
Members of the new Council to Secure the Digital Economy, organized by USTelecom and the Information Technology Industry Council, will work with global public sector leaders to determine a distinct set of priorities and industry initiatives that the world’s most prominent brands in technology and telecommunications can achieve together.
Pursuing cybersecurity mitigation intensely is a standard all stewards of the internet should strive for, and a responsibility we must all shoulder. Our global digital customers deserve nothing less. While we may never be able to erase “hack,” “scam” or “breach” from our vocabulary, we can make clear to the enemies of the digital economy that for every disruptive, malicious attempt, industry and government experts stand ready to create new solutions — new antibodies — to hold the virus at bay.
Jonathan Spalter is president and CEO of USTelecom. Dean Garfield is the CEO and president of the Information Technology Industry Council.
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