Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document

Chairman Wheeler, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

Download Options

Released: June 12, 2014
image01-00.jpg612x792

Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

American Enterprise Institute

Washington, D.C.

June 12, 2014

Thank you to the American Enterprise Institute for convening this important discussion.

I’m honored to be part of a lineup with General Hayden, General Alexander, Chairman Rogers,

Christopher Painter, FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen, and others.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on national security, especially relative to the other speakers you

will hear from today. But I suspect the reason you invited me today is because I do pretend to

know a little something about networks, and our cybersecurity challenge is network-based. Since

the FCC is the nation’s network agency, I thought it might be appropriate to reflect on what I

envision as the FCC’s role in addressing network security for the communications sector in the

Internet age.

In particular, I want to address how stakeholders in the communications sector – the sector on

which all aspects of the digital economy depend – must create a new paradigm for cyber

readiness. This begins with private sector leadership that recognizes how easily cyber threats

cross corporate and national boundaries. Because of this reality, the network ecosystem must

step up to assume new responsibility and market accountability for managing cyber risks.

The challenge is that this private sector-led effort must be more dynamic than traditional

regulation and more measurably effective than blindly trusting the market or voluntary best

practices to defend our country. The new paradigm for the communications sector must be real

and meaningful. It has to work. The Commission’s commitment to market accountability will

help ensure that it does work. And, while I am confident that it will work, we must be ready with

alternatives if it doesn’t.

Now, let me pause right here. Before headline writers rush to interpret this as “FCC wants to

regulate cyber,” we need to put these statements in the context of a broader philosophy we’ve

been practicing at the FCC. We believe there is a new regulatory paradigm where the

Commission relies on industry and the market first while preserving other options if that

approach is unsuccessful. The purpose of these remarks is to explain that concept as it applies to

cybersecurity. Basically it boils down to this: identify public goals, work with the affected

stakeholders in the communications industry to achieve those goals, and let that experience

inform whether there is any need for next steps.

Our new information networks are the new economy. Earlier networks enabled ancillary

economic activities. But our growth industries today are based on the exchange and use of digital

information. As such, information networks aren’t ancillary; they are integral. And their security

is vital.

1

image02-00.jpg612x792

For all the ways the Internet has already transformed our lives, today’s network revolution is

constantly creating enormous new opportunities to grow our economy, to enhance U.S.

competitiveness, and to improve the lives of the American people.

Yet, these changes also raise new security challenges – challenges that must be addressed if we

hope to seize the opportunities.

Consider the Internet of Things. Every second, about 100 new “things” are connecting to the

Internet – most of which are not people. Soon, we’ll have refrigerators talking to milk cartons

and sending a text message to pick up a new quart on the way home. Cisco forecasts that by 2020

– that’s less than half a dozen years away – over 50 billion inanimate devices will be

interconnected. Expressed another way, that’s 50 billion new attack vectors.

Similar threats continue to grow with mobile apps, social networks, and the other realities of our

rapidly evolving networked world.

And it’s not as if cybersecurity weren’t already complicated enough. Our cyber adversaries do

not fit a particular profile. They run the gamut from those working on behalf of governments to

steal trade secrets and intellectual property, to ideological non-governmental groups with

malicious intent to harm critical infrastructure, to criminal organizations intent on wreaking

havoc and making a profit, to individual hackers trying to steal private information.

The unfortunate reality is that our cyber adversaries worldwide are right at our virtual doors,

ready to break in the moment they sense the opportunity to steal our valuable information –

including personal information - and damage the networks on which we rely.

Everybody in this room understands that tackling the challenges of cybersecurity will require a

joint effort. That means collaboration within the federal government; collaboration between

federal, state and local governments, collaboration between the U.S. and foreign governments;

collaboration between government and the private sector; and even inter- and intra-industry

collaboration.

So what, exactly, is the FCC’s role in this shared endeavor?

The FCC’s responsibility to promote public safety and network security is fundamental. Our

mandate is codified in the Communications Act, which tells us that the FCC was established for

the purpose of, among other things, promoting the national defense, and the safety of life and

property.

Allow me to get wonky for a moment. Our telecom law was last updated in 1996, early in the life

of the new Internet Protocol world. I was there, and I can assure you no one foresaw then the

scope of IP-based communications that we take for granted today.

But the beautiful thing about our communications law is the ability that Congress has given to

this agency to face new circumstances. The drafters of the statute wisely spoke in terms of

2

image03-00.jpg612x792

effects such as the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” While there are many

proscriptive parts of the statute, it maintains at its core an effects-based orientation.

The challenge of the FCC is to deliver on the national security and public safety effects mandate

as the networks that enable those effects evolve from analog to digital.

The FCC cannot abdicate its responsibilities simply because the threats to national security and

life and safety have begun to arrive via new technologies.

If a call for help doesn’t go through, if

an emergency alert is hijacked, if our core network infrastructure goes down, are we really going

to say, “Well, that threat came through packet-switched IP-based networks, not circuit-switched

telephony, so it’s not our job…”?

We have unique, indispensable expertise and responsibilities when it comes to the

communications sector. So long as I am Chairman, we will work diligently and strategically

with all stakeholders to leverage that expertise and fulfill these responsibilities. Let me describe

how I hope we will be able to build a new paradigm of proactive, accountable cyber risk

management for the communications sector.

The New Consensus. First, the FCC must build upon past Federal and private sector work in

cybersecurity.

Following President Obama’s Cyberspace Policy Review in early 2009, a robust national

dialogue helped create a new consensus for cybersecurity. Our nation chose proactive private

sector cyber risk management – and all the corporate responsibilities and accountability that go

along with that – over a traditional regulatory approach of prescriptive government mandates.

In February 2013, with the encouragement of many of the legislators who had fought in the

trenches of those debates on Capitol Hill, President Obama issued an Executive Order, which

brought structure to a private sector-driven cybersecurity standards process facilitated by NIST.

NIST’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity prompted a depth of

private sector engagement and trust that had not previously existed. The issuance of the

Framework earlier this year has created a tremendous opportunity to make major, meaningful

strides in cybersecurity.

The Framework is a flexible, adaptable approach to risk management that can be applied by

companies of all types and sizes across all sectors. It is not a static checklist. The Framework’s

success will rely on proactive risk management, not reactive compliance with a cybersecurity to-

do list.

We have our work cut out for us, but there is now a deep and broad consensus that this approach

is the only workable strategy for securing commercial networks.

Growing cyber threats will test this proposition, so we must together seize the opportunity that

the new consensus presents.

3

image04-00.jpg612x792

The FCC’s New Paradigm. So how do we, as a regulator, ensure that the communications

sector steps up to the challenge?

I come from the technology entrepreneur and investment world, and I take a business-and-

technology oriented perspective to this policy question.

I firmly believe that we are not as smart, or as fast, or as innovative as the Internet.

The pace of

innovation on the Internet is much, much faster than the pace of a notice-and-comment

rulemaking.

We live in an age when a few smart 20-year-olds in somebody’s garage can render standard

technology obsolete within months. And the same is true for the pace of threat technology.

We cannot hope to keep up if we adopt a prescriptive regulatory approach. We must harness the

dynamism and innovation of competitive markets to fulfill our policy and develop solutions. We

are therefore challenging private sector stakeholders to create a “new regulatory paradigm” of

business-driven cybersecurity risk management.

This new paradigm must be based on private sector innovation, and the alignment of private

interests in profit and return on investment with public interests like public safety and national

security.

It needs to be more dynamic than rules, and – this is a key point – it needs to be more

demonstrably effective than blindly trusting the market. “Demonstrably effective” will require a

level of transparency that may make take some time to get used to, but the bottom line is that this

new paradigm can’t be happy talk about good ideas – it has to work in the real world. We need

market accountability on cybersecurity that doesn’t exist today, so that appropriately predictive

and proactive investment is made to improve cyber readiness.

This is a big task, but it is an essential responsibility.

We will be guided by a top notch team, led by the Chief of our Public Safety and Homeland

Security Bureau Admiral Dave Simpson.

We also have created new position of Chief Counsel for Cybersecurity to help Admiral Simpson

navigate the legal and strategic considerations, and Senate Intelligence Committee veteran Clete

Johnson is filling this role.

Rounding out the Admiral’s leadership team is Jeff Goldthorp, who has worked on these issues

at the Commission for more than a decade.

Agency-wide, our Bureau Chiefs and Office Heads are working with the Admiral to “bake”

cyber into the DNA of the Commission. Our activities going forward need to consider

vulnerabilities and impacts from cyber early on and throughout our FCC processes.

4

image05-00.jpg612x792

OK, so we have a new consensus, a new regulatory paradigm, and a new team. What does this

mean in real terms?

Our work on cybersecurity in the communications sector will be guided by a set of principles.

First and foremost is a commitment to preserving the qualities that have made the Internet

an unprecedented platform for innovation and free expression. That means we cannot

sacrifice the freedom and openness of the Internet in the name of enhanced security.

Second is our commitment to privacy, which is essential to consumer confidence in the

Internet.

We believe that when done right, cybersecurity enables digital privacy –

personal control of one’s own data and networks.

Third is a commitment to cross-sector coordination. We cannot address these threats in

one-sector or one-agency silos. Particularly among regulatory agencies, we must

coordinate our activities and our engagement with our sector stakeholders.

Fourth, we continue support the multi-stakeholder approach to global Internet governance

that has successfully guided its evolution, and we will oppose any efforts by international

groups to impose Internet regulations that could restrict the free flow of information in

the name of security. The digital economy is global, and this multi-stakeholder

improvement in cyber readiness and market accountability will be a useful template for

others and have positive impacts worldwide.

Guided by these principles, I have directed the FCC staff to organize our cyber activities around

some central pillars:

First, Information Sharing and Situational Awareness. We are examining the legal and

practical barriers to effective sharing of information about cyber threats and vulnerabilities in the

communications sector.

In order to protect companies and consumers against malicious cyber

attacks and intrusions, companies large and small within the communications sector must

implement privacy-protective mechanisms to report cyber threats to each other, and, where

necessary, to government authorities.

And for cyber attacks that cause degradations of service or

outages, the FCC and communications providers must develop efficient methods to communicate

and address these risks.

We’ve witnessed great innovation and progress on these issues in the

financial sector, where institutions of all sizes have worked together to develop ground-breaking

practices for sharing cyber threat information to combat threats in real time.

Such approaches

can be a model for the communications sector to span the large risk and awareness gap between

large and small, urban and rural providers.

We are actively engaged with private sector

Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations, and with our Federal partners – particularly

DHS and the FBI – to increase the efficiency of threat information sharing and improve

situational awareness.

To be clear, we seek only to assist and support – not to replace or

duplicate – existing private or public information sharing activities.

Second, Cybersecurity Risk Management and Best Practices. In 2011, our primary Federal

advisory committee on these issues, the Communications Security, Reliability and

5

image06-00.jpg612x792

Interoperability Council (CSRIC) completed voluntary industry best practices pertaining to

domain name security, Internet route hijacking, and an Anti-Bot Code of Conduct. This was

important foundational work. These standards, if implemented broadly, would “harden” our

nation’s communications backbone against cyber threats with potentially wide-scale industry

implications. In the coming weeks we will be seeking information to measure the

implementation and impact of these industry-defined best practices. In business school, I learned,

“If you can measure it, you can manage it.” I look forward to learning more through these

inquiries as to whether the private sector is taking this issue as seriously as it must.

Building on these efforts, CSRIC is presently hard at work developing risk management

processes to tailor the NIST Cyber Security Framework for the communications sector. This

particular effort, which features the active participation of over 100 experts from throughout the

communications sector, is a landmark initiative – the central proving ground for whether our

attempt to create a new paradigm will succeed. We are asking communications providers to work

with us in setting the course for years to come regarding how companies in this sector

communicate and manage risk internally, with their customers and business partners, and with

the government. This will require a degree of transparency and assurance to give consumers,

fellow providers, the market, and the FCC confidence that internal efforts are proactively

addressing threats to broader public interests.

Third, Investment in Innovation and Professional Development. I have chartered the

Commission’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC) to explore specific opportunities where

R&D activity beyond a single company might result in positive cybersecurity benefit for the

entire industry. In collaboration with academia and communications technology stakeholders,

we will identify incentives, impediments, and opportunities for security innovations in the

market for communications hardware, firmware and software. We also must work with

academia and NIST to evaluate the maturation of our nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

Cybersecurity professionals are among our nation’s most talented, educated and dedicated

workers. We seek to understand the current state of professional standards and accountability

and with our partners understand where the FCC might positively contribute towards further

professionalization of the workforce.

How will we measure success or failure of this new paradigm?

This is the toughest and most important question that our stakeholders have to answer.

We cannot continue on a path that lets individual networks put other networks, American

businesses and consumers at risk.

We need to develop market accountability that doesn’t currently exist.

Unlike financial risk, for which we have several centuries of quantified data on which to draw,

quantitative cyber risk factors are relatively immature.

But that doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and give up.

6

image07-00.jpg612x792

I have directed FCC staff to work with our partners in the Federal government and the private

sector to gather input on how to measure, assess and manage cyber risk in the communications

sector.

Some common success factors are already emerging from that dialogue: First, companies

conduct thorough inventories of their exposure to various cyber risks, internally and with their

partners, Second, they conduct qualitative assessments of their management of those identified

exposures to cyber risk. Third, they seek data from those qualitative assessments to develop

quantitative metrics pertinent to their own internal needs. Fourth, they invest to close cyber

readiness gaps making conscious, measured choices to mitigate risk.

In short: Identify the cyber risk universe, develop internal controls, assess implementation, and

monitor effects. This sounds a lot like how enterprise risk management has always been done

across all risks. Applying it to cyber risk would seem a no-brainer.

Companies must have the capacity to assure themselves, their shareholders and boards – and

their nation – of the sufficiency of their own cyber risk management practices. These risk

assessment approaches will undoubtedly differ company by company. But regardless of the

specific approach a company might choose, it is crucial that companies develop methodologies

that give them a meaningful understanding of their risk exposure and risk management posture

that can be communicated internally and externally.

That is what we are asking our stakeholders

to do.

Once individual companies have an understanding of their own risk posture, then we can answer

follow-on questions about the appropriate way to communicate this risk to business partners,

customers, and the public.

We expect this to prompt a virtuous cycle of security, privacy and innovation, in which the

market continually drives to improve these mutually reinforcing values. If so, ISPs will stand for

Innovation, Security, and Privacy.

One last point: solving the technological challenges of cybersecurity is, for all its difficulties, the

easy part. The hard part is changing behavior.

According to one study, 90 percent of breaches in a recent year could have been prevented with

basic or intermediate security measures. People recognize that cybersecurity is a problem that

must be addressed, but too few people are acting on this information – from consumers who may

not know exactly why they need to update their passwords, to C-suite executives who don’t yet

fully grasp the threat that cyber attacks pose to their companies’ viability, nor how they can

match the risk with investment in cyber defenses.

We believe our work can help change behavior, and we expect that stakeholders will rise to this

challenge.

The communications sector is at a critical juncture. We know there are threats to the

communications networks upon which we all rely. We know those threats are growing. And we

7

image08-00.jpg612x792

have agreed that industry-based solutions are the right approach. The question is: will this

approach work? We are not Pollyannas. We will implement this approach and measure results. It

is those results that will tell us what, if any, next steps must be taken.

8

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.

close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.