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Is it time for a Cyber Peace Corps?

Speed read
  • Cyber attacks are now a threat to world peace
  • Cybersecurity experts are in short supply; a Cyber Peace Corps could fill the gap
  • Leading a cyber security exchange would bolster US credibility

Hackers around the world are attacking targets as diverse as North Dakota’s state government, the Ukrainian postal service and a hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia. Unfortunately, many governments — in the developing world, and even cash-strapped states and local communities in the United States — lack the skills to effectively protect themselves.<strong>Scott Shackelford</strong> proposes sharing cybersecurity knowledge as a great way to train the next generation of computer scientists and win hearts and minds abroad. Courtesy Scott Shackelford.

The US has an opportunity to serve itself and the world by revitalizing the ideals of global service popularized in another era of its history. Congress should expand the mandates of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to create a Cyber Peace Corps. It could do this by amending the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which was passed in 2009 to reorganize and expand the AmeriCorps program.

Expanding service options

Adding cybersecurity to the mandates of America’s national and international service programs would help fight the dire cyber-insecurity problems facing the country and the world. The effort could bolster political support, and funding, for the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. But more importantly, it could help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Partnerships with universities and community colleges across the nation could create summer cybersecurity boot camps and clinics to teach young Americans how to defend computer systems against malicious hackers. That would help address the projected shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals by 2022, and prepare prospective members of a Cyber National Guard.

If Congress doesn’t act, other options exist for both individuals and companies. A program like Teach for America could recruit willing volunteers and help prepare them for service. Private firms and civic groups could create their own coalitions, perhaps along the lines of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, linking trained professionals with communities needing help.

A similar effort in India, the nonprofit Cyber Peace Foundation, has partnered cybersecurity experts with community organizations to help protect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.

Toward cyber peace

In the US, a pilot project could start with existing industry organizations focused on sharing cyber-threat information. Interested member corporations could contribute their workers for a fixed period of time to strengthen cybersecurity capabilities in their communities, including for school districts, municipalities and utility companies. Firms with international operations could do the same abroad.

<strong>Give peace a chance. </strong> President John F. Kennedy speaks during a ceremony for the first group of departing Peace Corps volunteers, leaving for Tanganyika and Ghana, in the Rose Garden. Courtesy Cecil Stoughton; White House Photographs; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

When President Kennedy called for the creation of the Peace Corps during the turbulent 1960 election, the world was different: At the height of the Cold War, America faced a difficult challenge to win hearts and minds, especially in nations not yet aligned with either the US or the Soviet Union. Today negative perceptions about the United States are rising around the world.

Developing US cybersecurity talent and deploying it to mitigate threats to information security both at home and abroad would help protect vulnerable communities and rebuild social ties.

In fact, the efforts involved in getting Cyber Peace Corps workers and their hosts to work together to protect potentially sensitive information may help strengthen trust and goodwill among nations. And it would recast 20th-century service commitments to face 21st-century challenges.

There are untold thousands of people on college campuses, working for small businesses and in leading tech firms who are worried about the world’s lack of cybersecurity, but who feel powerless to change things. If given an opportunity, their work would help create the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. And it could offer new opportunities to bridge partisan divides at home, and geopolitical fault lines abroad.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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