Do you trust the government with your computer?

Nov 16, 2012 by Amy Payne

Do you trust the federal government to keep your personal data safe? What about your business's records and trade secrets? If you answered "no," you have good reason - the federal government has had 13 breaches and failures of its own cyber-security just in the last six months.

Yet President Obama and his allies in the Senate are pushing forward to regulate America's cyber-doings, without any clues about how much this will cost us or how it will work.

It's become the norm with this president - if Congress fails to accomplish his objectives, he goes around it with executive orders and federal regulations. He's doing it again. Congress did not pass the Cyber-security Act of 2012 before the election, so the president has issued a draft of an executive order to put much of that legislation in place without lawmakers voting.

Not to be left behind, though, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, may try to get another vote on the bill before the end of the year - some are saying as soon as this week.

If the idea of cyber-security - trying to secure all of the country's sensitive and data - sounds abstract, that's because it is. It's so abstract, in fact, that the legislation and executive order our leaders are pushing offer few details about what they would actually do, other than piling more confusing regulations onto businesses.

When you think about it, the idea of the trying to be on the cutting edge of technological security is pretty laughable. As The Heritage Foundation's David Inserra notes:

"Simply put, government regulations usually take 24–36 month to complete, but the power of computers doubles every 18–24 months. This means that any standards developed will be written for threats that are two or three computer generations old."

A federal government that stays hopelessly behind the curve and can't even secure its own networks doesn't exactly inspire confidence. But oh, it can regulate!

President Obama's executive order would give multiple federal agencies new power to regulate businesses. It would work much like Obamacare, which passed with few details but gave agencies like Health and Human Services a blank check to write regulations. One of the incentives it may use to keep businesses in line is favoritism in awarding federal contracts - businesses that met the government's cyber-security standards could be moved to the head of the line.

According to Heritage Visiting Fellow Paul Rosenzweig, "this order will likely be very significant and very costly while not providing important solutions, such as effective information sharing."

How much will it cost businesses to comply with all these new (yet perpetually outdated) regulations? We don't know.

Will the standards be voluntary or mandatory? Also unknown.

Can companies share information about cyber-threats they have detected, with confidence that their sensitive information will be protected? No guarantees.

With so many unanswered questions, the executive order - or the legislation - would create massive headaches for businesses and could hinder innovation. Just what the economy needs.

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More information: Amy Payne is Assistant Director for Strategic Communications at The Heritage Foundation. Readers may write to the author in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: www.heritage.org. Information about Heritage's funding may be found at www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm .
McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

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User comments : 11

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Pawl
5 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2012
Frankly, I wouldn't trust the government with a burnt-out match.
FrankHerbert
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 16, 2012
This is a matter of national security, something republicans pretend to care about. They are obviously just pretending or they'd come to the table to pass a version of the law.
MadLintElf
5 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2012
Working in IT for over 25 years, I would never trust the government with my computer or with an operating system manufactured by a company that has close ties to the government.

Way too many back doors have been found in all the major OS's, even encryption does not provide you with 100% protection.

If you have something that is private, never put it on a computer.
ScooterG
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 16, 2012
But don't fret about any of your medical records or your DNA - Okenyan will make certain all of that stays private.
Noumenon
4.5 / 5 (50) Nov 16, 2012
Wow, I'm shocked that physorg posted this. You're exactly correct, Amy. This is what "progressive liberalism" is all about though, in general,, ...expanding government power, control, and influence over our lives, but without having to be accountable to elected officials.

This is the same incompetent gov that can't even teach school children efficiently with a near infinite sum of money, and finds it too difficult to arrange that school buses use seat belts,... the same that loses billions in funding an army of people to hand deliver pottery catalogues door to door.

When there is no one 'behind the counter' making a profit , there is inefficiency and incompetence.
VendicarD
3.2 / 5 (9) Nov 16, 2012
More Stupidity from the Heritage Foundation.

"Simply put, government regulations usually take 24 to 36 month to complete, but the power of computers doubles every 18 to 24 months. This means that any standards developed will be written for threats that are two or three computer generations old."

Compute power has virtually nothing to do with poor system security.

And then the morons can't even get the math right. 36/18 = 2 not 2 to 3.

Conservatie Idiots from start to finish.
randith
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2012
A network is insecure if an untrustworthy third party (i.e. the government) can effect its security.

Either Obama is a moron for trying to solve a problem that he doesn't understand, or he understands the consequences of what he's doing and wants to do it anyway, in which case he's evil. (Is there another alternative? I'm open to correction on this point.) Yet so many people (VendicarD you are probably one of them :/ ) are so caught up in how "stupid" conservatives are that they won't acknowledge a valid point from them. They'd rather let our freedoms burn.
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 17, 2012
More Stupidity from the Heritage Foundation.
LOL I did not follow the stink of this libtard propaganda piece back to it's source so quickly as you!
A network is insecure if an untrustworthy third party (i.e. the government) can effect its security.
Speaking of stupidity, even this foreign speaker knows proper word is 'affect' not 'effect.'
ryggesogn2
3 / 5 (6) Nov 17, 2012
"Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt"
Samuel Adams, Essay published in The Advertiser (1748)
randith
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2012
@kochevnik Both VD and I made spelling errors. He said 'Conservatie' and I said 'effect'. But you chose to call *me* (and not him) stupid over a very minor spelling error.

Plus: I haven't noticed you being a grammar Nazi before. Therefore, the real reason you called me stupid is probably because of my politics. You dismiss my ideas without giving them a single thought because we disagree politically. Thank you for illustrating my original point *perfectly*.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (2) Nov 19, 2012
All three parties of the American Ruling Class are progressive, the D, R, and L are progressives. Only the minor Constitution Party is conservative of the vision and values of the Founding Fathers.

See Angelo Codevilla's July 2010 TAS essay, 'America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution.

See Hillsdale College's History of Western Civilization and Constitution courses, free and on-line MOOCS.