General objectives that guide the activities and relationships of one state in its interactions with other states.

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Is America doing enough to protect itself from cyber-attacks?

in Russia/Technology/Triumph/U.S. by

The political world is an ever-evolving beast that can see new threats or issues crop up regularly. Within the politics of any one country, foreign affairs is always an area in which this is felt keenly. This is especially true for a superpower such as America, which has allies to foster close links with around the globe but also enemies.

It is the enemies that naturally take up the most column inches in the media and also the most time within the White House. As these can represent an actual threat to America in both physical and economic terms, the foreign secretary will spend a lot of time outlining policy for these nations with the president. One big threat that America is certainly having to factor in here is cyber-attacks. This is becoming an increasingly popular way for countries hostile to the US to try to breach its defenses and cause it harm.

Russia and US relations key

To say that relations between the US and Russia have been shaky for a long time now is somewhat of an understatement. Although the period after the Cold War ended seemed to bring both nations closer, this has now been reversed under Vladimir Putin.

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Russia now is well-known for using cyber-attacks on other nations, and the US is reported as one victim of this tactic. During the 2018 midterm elections, for example, US sources revealed that internet access had been denied to a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency. This was the same company that had been suspected of committing a cybercrime against the US in the 2016 presidential election.

This situation shows just how common cyber-attacks are becoming as a tool that other nations will use against America. It is in many ways a simple update of the Cold War for the 21st century but with no physical agents having to be risked. Many believe that one way of combating this is to involve more foreign policy experts on Russia to help. Angela Stent is one well-respected expert on Russian-American relations and someone who many believe could provide the advice needed. By involving people like her, America could well head off any future Russian cyber-attacks and have more knowledge on how relations could be improved between the two.

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Cyber-attacks from Russia, not the only issue

Russia is not the only nation that is beginning to use cybercrime against nations such as the US to get the sensitive information it wants. China is also very active in this area and is another nation that America needs to be very careful of in terms of protecting its IT infrastructure. Of course, the burning question for many Americans is whether the US is doing enough to stop Russian and Chinese cybercrime.

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More urgency needed from policymakers

While steps are being taken to deal with cyber-attacks on American networks and systems, many feel that the policymakers in Government are being too slow to react. As the cybercrimes that are being targeted against the US become ever more sophisticated, many fear that not enough is being done now by those in power to head them off. It would seem that the US could be doing more in terms of the policy to fight this kind of crime from outside its borders. It is apparent that nations such as Russia have made cyber warfare a key tenant of their foreign policy – maybe America should make cyber-defense a key part of theirs?

More vigilance is needed

Many people involved in this area also feel that America is not showing enough vigilance around cyber-attacks. This is not only in terms of government policy but also how the average citizen feels around cyber-attacks from external nations. The potential that these have to impact negatively on everyday life is immense and something that does not seem to be on a lot of people’s agendas. Many cyber experts feel that more awareness should be raised of how critical this issue is, and people should start to be much more vigilant around cyber-attacks in their workplace or home.

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Could more resources be put into fighting cyber-attacks?

When it comes down to staying safe from cyber-attacks on American systems or businesses, a lot comes down to resources. If the American Government is serious about stopping this kind of threat, then it must put more resources into training people to fight it online and developing more robust systems to protect the US IT infrastructure. By doing this, it will give the cyber-defense sector in the US the money and people it needs to properly see off any external threat.

America could step it up

Since the scandal around the 2016 US presidential election, cyber-attacks have certainly been higher on people’s agendas in Washington. The main question is whether it is high enough and enough is being done to really keep America safe into the future. While there have been steps made towards this, many believe that more could be done to keep the US safe from digital attacks.



Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignpolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com

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