THE BLOG
04/05/2013 06:41 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2013

Navigating the Virtual Battlefield

Co-authored by James Wigginton

For those who advocate for a free and open Internet governed by the multi-stakeholder approach, treaties proposed at the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai were a potential disaster, giving countries greater power to limit the rights of their citizens. But the proposed treaties also highlighted another important issue, one that touches every nation regardless of its stance on free expression.

That issue is cybersecurity.

In a world where borders are increasingly blurring, where two billion people and counting are connected like never before, protecting the security of nations and individuals is one of our greatest challenges. Attacks both foreign and domestic occur on national networks and financial institutions daily. Earlier this year, the New York Times was repeatedly attacked by Chinese hackers. While some attacks are little more than fishing expeditions, the threat of a major attack -- be it on national banks or national grids -- definitely exists.

Governments defending against a wide array of cyberthreats have a complicated problem, not just on the practical front, but on the regulatory side as well. As Ambassador David Gross, former U.S. Coordinator of International Communications and Information Policy for the Department of State told us recently, "Cybersecurity is a critically important Internet regulatory issue because it affects almost everything, including the reliability and security of our conversations, our commerce, and our ability to be connected globally."

The question is, how do private actors and government entities increase cybersecurity while preserving the Internet's dynamic ability to innovate and grow? It's a question some of the leading minds in academia, business and security will explore during "The Virtual Battlefield: Securing Cyberspace in a World Without Borders," a symposium being held at Stanford Law School April 11-12. Hosted by the Stanford Journal of International Law and sponsored by CALinnovates, this two-day discussion will tackle everything from the very definition of what constitutes a cyberthreat to the feasibility of multilateral treaties in cybersecurity. Panelists include the International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré, New York Times journalist Nicole Perlroth, former White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt and Lookout Founder & CTO Kevin Mahaffey.

While the unprecedented expansion of the Internet has brought the world closer together, it's also created daunting new challenges for security. We can all agree that the benefits of an increasingly connected planet far outweigh the risks, but keeping networks safe from attack while safeguarding the freedom that makes the Internet such a powerful tool could easily spawn a regulatory minefield.

That makes this week's discussion at Stanford Law School -- and the many discussions about cybersecurity yet to come -- important conversations for us to be having. It took a light regulatory hand to help make the Internet what it is today. Breaking it in the name of security could be the worst cyber-attack of all.

Mike Montgomery is Executive Director of CALinnovates.

James Wigginton is a third-year student at Stanford Law School. Before law school, James earned degrees in International Studies from Cambridge University and Brigham Young University. He and his wife Heather have two sons and enjoy traveling the world together.

*The views expressed in this article belong to the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Stanford Journal of International Law.