Cybersecurity and Internet Health: Collaborating to Protect Citizens and Systems Online

Computing is now an essential part of our everyday lives. The Internet today reaches a global population of more than two billion people – providing a range of critical services to more citizens around the world than ever before. We are using a greater variety of devices and managing data in unique ways to communicate and share information with others and conduct business online. However, a range of players are focusing their energies on misusing and attacking an increasingly networked environment through a variety of complex cyber threats that raise new challenges for citizens on the Internet. 

Commonly available cyber defenses such as firewalls, antivirus software and automatic updates for security patches help reduce the risk from threats, but they are not enough. Industry and governments have begun efforts to help protect consumers against online threats. This collective work to build safer computing experiences online is very important and should continue. We must try to prevent computer infections before they happen, before data can be lost and identities stolen. This effort requires a collaborative approach among key members across the IT ecosystem. We are better together.

Last June, I participated in a breakthrough group on Internet Health at the 2nd EastWest Institute Cybersecurity Summit. The group’s objective was to find tangible and measurable ways to address cybersecurity issues and improve global Internet health. While definitions vary, cybersecurity is the collective activities and resources that enable citizens, enterprises and governments to meet their computing objectives in a secure, private and reliable manner.

Over the past year, the EWI working group looked to the public health model as a conceptual framework to identify ways to improve security on the Internet. My colleague, Kevin Sullivan, coordinated this collective effort and the results have now been released in a new EWI report released today entitled The Internet Health Model for Cybersecurity.

The report offers seven key principles to translate the concepts of public health into approaches for managing the cybersecurity of large populations. The contributors also provide an exploration of five areas for future research. The report provides an important effort in establishing the Internet health model as an organizing framework and identifying priority areas for future research.

Threats to our information centric society continue to grow just as fast as the number of users and devices that connect to the Internet. The EWI effort demonstrates the growing global awareness of the importance of Internet health. We must find relevant models and adopt a coordinated approach to protecting people and systems online. Internet citizens will need a system that is authoritative, yet simple enough to understand and use.

About the Author

Director, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft