Google and the NSA: Necessary Allies

We are at war and business data centers are the battlefield. It seems only natural that Google and the NSA should be working together. Who better to protect us? And we need to be able to play both defense and offense, something I wonder if we can do today.

Now, I'm as paranoid as the next guy, but the handwringing over the two working together on cybersecurity really needs to stop. This is war and we are at a disadvantage from the start. Free societies always are.

Cyberwarfare is shaping up to be the new Cold War, pitting us and our allies against both states and non-state actors. Our businesses and critical infrastructure will be the key fronts in this battle, meaning that businesses and government must work together.

Do we need protection from overreaching by, well, everyone into our personal data and lives? Of course we do, but this will be an evolving thing as defensive measures are developed and change over time. That is to say, a little handwringing may not be a bad thing, but we are at war and when compromises are made that fact needs to be considered.

Cyberwarfare is subtle, but only for now. If, for example, the nation's electric grid is as easily compromised as has been reported, then our enemies have the ability to disrupt electric services in the U.S. Even on a small scale, losing power can be deadly for vulnerable populations. On a large scale, just the threat of such an attack has tremendous extortion value.

In this light, and considering the complexity of cyberattacks, it only makes sense that Google--the world's leading search engine--and the NSA--the world's leading electronic security agency--are going to work together.

Yes, I know that attacks inside the U.S. are the domain of the Department of Homeland Security, but the international nature of the problem begs for our strongest response. Cyberwarfare probably needs to be treated differently than "physical crimes" such as a terrorist on an airliner.

I am not suggesting one is more serious than the other; just that each deserves a strong response from the agencies best able to provide it. In the base of cyberbattles, that seems to be the NSA and the military.

During the Cold War, there was the doctrine of mutually assured destruction in which the U.S. and the Soviets didn't use their nukes because they knew that after a first strike, the other side could still lob enough missiles over the pole to devastate the other. MAD, as it was called, has kept us safe for decades.

I think we need that in cyberspace, too. People need to understand that the U.S. does not like to play this game, but that if forced upon us we will respond in kind. If nations can't behave decently and force their citizens to do likewise, the U.S. and its allies stand ready to take punishing actions at a time and place of our choosing.

If the bad guys want to take us on, we need to give as good as we get. And, for that reason, I am thrilled to see the Good Guys working together. Will there be problems, even occasional abuses? Probably.

But, what we might lose to an enemy is dramatically greater than what we're likely to do to ourselves.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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