Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop

Advance Information Technology as a Dual-edged Sword

U.S. Dep Asst Sec of Defense Robert Lentz

Mr. Robert Lentz
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Networks and Information Integration (NII)

Mr. Robert Lentz (right), U.S Dep Assistant Secretary of Defense, chairs panel on "Cyber-defense: the unnoticed third-world war" with (from left to right) Henri Serres, Chief Information Officer in the French Defense Ministry, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense John Grimes, Microsoft Executive Director Tim Bloechl, Lt. Gen. Ulrich Wolf, Dir of NATO's CIS Service Agency, and Estonian Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo.

"Advanced information technology is a dual-edged sword, because is a tremendous
source of great strength,... it can make us very vulnerable to the
kind of cyber-terrorism that is now on the rise."

The issue of cyber-security was teed up at the global summit in Moscow. It was at that summit that we began to more seriously discuss the information technology and security issues that stemmed from our movement into the Information Age. We also started to discuss there how we, as institutions, NATO and the EU in particular, would address those issues. 

Since that time, Roger Weissinger-Baylon has regarded that topic as a very important one, and today we have a very distinguished panel addressing the subject and taking it very seriously. I think we can all agree, based on the comments that have been made since the beginning of the workshop, that cyber-security is a strategic imperative and something we have to start dealing with.

In his luncheon address, John Grimes covered a lot of ground, so I won’t go into the particulars of why this area is so important. I will say, however, that if there is one summary of why the topic is important, it is that institutions are not only making a strategic security and stability shift from guns to blankets, as we talked about earlier, but that they are going from guns to blankets to information, because there is no doubt that without the full use of our information and computers and information technology, our institutions will not be successful in bringing enhanced security and stability to all the regions we have been talking about at this workshop. 

One example of just how much our network technology is already benefiting people everywhere and how our institutions can leverage that situation is the effort now underway to design inexpensive, small computers—the cost is being driven down below $50—to make them so human-friendly that people in the most illiterate and underprivileged countries can use them. The fact that personal digital assistants (PDAs) can now be used by farmers in Africa to map their fields to instantly download satellite coverage to determine irrigation patterns or to get quick, up-to-date weather information shows that we can use information technology to our advantage, especially in the areas of security and stability in very underprivileged regions.

This panel is going to be dealing with such issues. It is also going to deal with the issue that Mr. Grimes raised—that advanced information technology is a dual-edged sword, because while we can leverage it and it is a tremendous source of great strength, it is also a significant source of vulnerability, because it can make us very vulnerable to the kind of cyber-terrorism that is now on the rise.

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