Building the Foundation for a Cybersecurity Movement

During a recent visit to Capitol Hill to discuss cybersecurity issues with legislators, a Congressman asked me: “Do you really think the American public care about cybersecurity?”   

His question was meant to be more of a statement. His point was that comprehensive legislation to address cybersecurity challenges can only happen if a powerful lobby and/or groundswell of support develops to drive change. Policy makers in Washington have told me they have a desire to do more to protect our institutions along with the the public and private sectors. But, without more vocal, dynamic advocacy, fundamental change won’t happen on its own.

We explored the need for strong, enlightened leadership to drive our cybersecurity moonshot, but, in order for it to be successful, we’ll also need a groundswell of support to drive fundamental change.  While Elon Musk is transforming the auto industry, he couldn’t do it without the thousands of engineers and hundreds of thousands of customers who believe in his vision and buy his products.  

In The Cyber Conundrum, How Do We Fix Cybersecurity, I explore several moonshots that were catapulted into reality by groundswell support.  

The Polio Cure Moonshot
The effort to eradicate polio got its origins and funding from two enlightened benefactors - Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Basil O'Connor. When O’Connor and FDR founded the Warm Springs Foundation in the 1920s their focus was on creating treatments to help alleviate the debilitating effects of the disease. Later, in 1938, FDR and Basil O’Connor founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) to coordinate nationwide efforts to stem the tide of polio and find a cure. O’Connor served as its first president and led the organization for decades. By the 1950s, thousands of chapters nationwide raised millions each year through the NFIP March of Dimes.

O’Connor publicized a clearly communicated national strategy, built coalitions of supporters, raised money, organized communities and engaged policy makers in the noble cause of eradicating polio. He had the vision necessary to see into the future and realize while he didn’t know how we were going to eradicate polio, he needed to galvanize public opinion behind his cause in order to achieve his objectives.  He capitalized on the popular appeal of his mission and the subsequent groundswell funded research, created awareness and mobilized the masses.

We’ll need to follow O’Connor’s lead as we build momentum behind our cybersecurity moonshot. We’ll need a clearly communicated national strategy, a coalition of willing supporters, funding to spread our message, organize communities and lobby policy makers.  

Certainly, the movement will begin with an enlightened vanguard of policy makers, technology leaders, business leaders, researchers and others who help set the national strategy. These leaders need the vision necessary to see into the future and realize while we didn’t know how we were going to achieve our moonshot, they must galvanize public opinion and begin building resources needed to organize coalitions for change.

Without the key strategic accomplishments made by Basil O’Connor and his supporters, we may have never achieved the groundswell and momentum needed to eradicate polio.

We can’t appeal to moonshot supporters and create momentum for change without a credible, clearly communicated strategy, a strong sense of need and solid leadership.

Let’s hope 20 years from now, we’re able to look back and similarly give thanks to those who lead the moonshot that fixed cybersecurity.

Peter Chronis