Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Populism, Democracy, and Cybersecurity
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Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Populism, Democracy, and Cybersecurity

By The Cylance Team

The natives are getting restless. In Western democracies, the rise of populism is rocking the very foundations of our institutions, as evidenced by Brexit and the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That sentiment follows the growing unrest in populations ruled by authoritarian regimes, as we first witnessed with the Arab Spring, and more recently in Russia. At the root of both trends is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the incumbent leadership and their governing systems.

Cylance® in partnership with CSO Media is hosting a series of three webinars designed to give business leaders rare and valuable access to discourse with some of the most important leaders of our day on the topics of geopolitical trends, and how they relate to cybersecurity.

The World and Cyberspace – Populism, Privacy, and Prevention

In this third and final webinar in the series titled, “The World and Cyberspace – Populism, Privacy, and Prevention”, Dr. Condoleezza Rice shares her views on the rise of populism, the use of technology for good and bad, and the future of democracy. Dr. Rice served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, and as President George W. Bush’s Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor).

Dr. Rice is joined by Cylance’s Chief Security and Trust Officer, Malcolm Harkins, and the conversation is moderated by CSO Media publisher Bob Bragdon.

Elon Musk once said, “Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” This discussion takes a wide-angle view at what nation states can do in the face of this new world of random terrorist violence, cyberattacks disrupting critical business systems, and the stunning growth in social media to shape popular opinion.

Following is an excerpted Q&A with Dr. Rice and Malcolm Harkins.

How do we enable people to feel safe, while keeping trade open for business?

Dr. Rice: After World War II, people set out to build a world where they could trade freely. We forget that globalization had tremendous benefit, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We also forget that there are some people who lost — those who had skills that didn’t keep up with the globalizing economy. In today’s world, we are going to have to deal with the concerns of those people or they will overwhelm globalization simply by making their leaders responsive to that darker view of this phenomenon.

How do reconcile technology as an enabler and an oppressor?

Dr. Rice: Technology is not inherently good or bad; it is neutral. It is how technology is used and whether it is used with wisdom that determines whether technology is going to promote human wellbeing or detract from it. So, I’m not at all surprised that dark forces have been able to use technology just as well as enlightened ones. The key is to push as hard as we can for enlightened uses of technology.

Is the recent meddling of governments into other countries’ affairs new?

Dr. Rice: I think it is a modern approach to what some governments have always tried to do. The Soviet Union tried to meddle in the affairs and the elections of other countries almost from the time of its inception in 1918, particularly in Europe. The Internet allows the aggressor to act far more efficiently and much more pervasively. We don’t have any rules of the game right now in the international system about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. It’s almost like the nuclear era before we had a sense that mutually shared destruction meant, ‘if you can do it to me, I can do it to you’.

How do we move forward in a world where cyberattack tools have become commoditized?

Malcolm: At the core of these problems is that we designed and developed technologies that have vulnerabilities, then implemented and configured them with vulnerabilities. We’ve also deployed security solutions that don’t work. There needs to be a recognition in the U.S. that we are the creators of this vulnerable technology, and a cybersecurity industry that has perpetuated solutions that do not adequately address the problem. Until we get to that level of understanding and accountability, we won’t be able to really mitigate the technology issues.

With the WannaCry Ransomware and other similar attacks, are we seeing rogue groups using cyberweapons?

Malcolm: I do think we’ve seen the weaponization of the leaked tool set attributed to the NSA and some other agencies. When tools and technology built by nation states get published, anybody can use them with the right connections and the right service. This results in easily attainable crimeware-as-a-service. In fact, the parent company of Nabisco, Mondelez, recently announced that their last quarter revenue is going to be adversely affected by 3% due to the effects of such a breach on their operation.

Is our form of government – democracy – at risk?

Dr. Rice: I think it is quite the opposite. The youngest democracies are obviously vulnerable, and they can be vulnerable to big neighbors. For the more robust democracies, while there are challenges, the distributed nature of democracies makes it difficult to bring down a democratic government. We used to talk about this in the nuclear age there are so many potential points that you do not have a single point of failure. And that’s probably the best thing democracy has going for it.

How do you explain the explosive growth of democracies?

Dr. Rice: There are some big mega trends that helped, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the real reason this happens is that eventually people get fed up with authoritarian, corrupt governments that don’t deliver for them. When the Mubarak government fell in Egypt, almost 40% of Egyptian youth were unemployed.

To learn more about Dr. Rice’s views on the current state of protectionism and our democracies, click here to watch the recorded webinar.

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