As the United States continues to compete in the cyber domain against adversarial nation states, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says that the U.S. must confront crucial questions about how to shape the future of internet-based communications.

Speaking during the Black Hat USA event on August 5, Mayorkas spoke about a new chapter in the “Great Game” between world powers, which has evolved from land competition in the mid-19th century to “competing for territory we cannot see” today.

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“We are competing for the future of cyberspace – one in which friends gather, colleagues communicate, businesses sell, consumers buy, dissidents organize, horrific crimes occur, governments hear from their citizens, and information is widely and quickly disseminated,” said Mayorkas.

“We are competing between two visions – one from countries like Russia, China, and Iran who want to limit access and maximize control, and another from the United States and our allies who want to build and protect a free, open, and secure internet,” he said.

Among other big-picture questions, Mayorkas said the U.S. must confront:

  • Who will build, own, control, and operate the underling infrastructure of the internet?
  • Who will shape the future of data routing?
  • How will privacy and security be protected both online and offline?
  • How will we better protect ourselves from growing cyber threats?

Mayorkas emphasized the value of partnerships in dealing with those questions, and said that as DHS continues to work on cybersecurity and resilience, he’s excited about the new Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) from DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Announced on August 5, the JCDC will use collaboration to mitigate cyber risks to Federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector.

“I have said before that the Department of Homeland Security … is fundamentally a department of partnerships,” said Mayorkas. “[JCDC] is just one of many efforts underway designed to leverage our partners to keep our communities safe.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.