Making the Case for Public-Private Collaboration in the Fight Against Cybercrime

by Ryan Connell, UMN Law Student, MJLST Lead Articles Editor

In Cyber-Threats and the Limits of Bureaucratic Control, Volume 14, Issue 1 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Professor Susan Brenner delivered a thoughtful and compelling analysis of the current state of the United States Government’s approach to cybercrime. Professor Brenner advocates for a new threat-control strategy. Specifically, Professor Brenner urges us to abandon the rigid hierarchical structures that currently define our strategy. Professor Brenner instead would support a system that correlates with the lateral networked structures that are found in cyberspace itself.

Almost certainly, cybercrime must be at the forefront of our concerns. Hackers across the globe constantly threaten government secrets. In the private sector, corporations’ data also provide lucrative targets for hackers.

As Professor Brenner points out, we, as a country, have given the government complete responsibility for addressing the cybercrime threat. The problem however, is that the government has distributed its response among the many agencies that comprise the government. This has created a fragmented response where agencies either needlessly repeat each other’s work or operate in the dark due to a lack of information sharing between the agencies. Overall, this response has left many, particularly in the corporate world, feeling dissatisfied with the government.

Unfortunately, this dissatisfaction in the corporate world has damaged the government’s ability to address cybercrime in the private sector. For instance, although private industry has spent in upwards of 300 billion dollars to fight hackers, only one third of companies report cybercrimes to the government. This may suggest that the companies think they can solve the problem better than the government can. It bears mentioning that this problem is not unique the United States. The United Kingdom, for instance, has suffered similar problems. Indeed, in the UK, banks are more likely to simply reimburse most victims of cybercrime than they are to report it to the government.

Professor Brenner has presented an interesting and plausible solution. She has recognized that the Internet itself is community-based and is laterally networked. Accordingly, it is difficult to address the problems raised by cybercrime using a vertically networked system. The government should encourage and facilitate civilian participation in the fight against cybercrime. The government should recognize that it alone cannot solve this problem. Cybercrime is a solution that takes more than government to solve; it takes a government and its citizens.