Virginia can help keep the global internet free, open and accessible

By Asheesh Agarwal

As a national leader in cybersecurity, Virginia is setting the standards for data protection and critical infrastructure through its numerous data centers, cloud computing capacity, and skilled workforce.

A recent report by the American Edge Project explains how Virginia’s expertise could help to keep the internet open and accessible for everyone. American information systems are regularly threatened by foreign hackers from China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes.  China steals more than $500 billion in U.S. intellectual property each year and the FBI recently revealed that the agency is investigating more than 2,000 Chinese cyberattacks.  Congress found that Beijing’s increasing reliance on hostile cyber operations poses “a serious threat to U.S. government, business and critical infrastructure networks in the new and highly competitive cyber domain.”

Amid these threats, the United States must commit to maintaining a free and open internet. As three pillars of a robust policy agenda, America should slow the spread of foreign digital authoritarianism, promote free speech within and across our borders, and build a stronger internet to connect people to each other and to their governments.

Cybersecurity is a cornerstone of this agenda. Policymakers should increase funding for government agencies to combat foreign influence operations, expand staff and dedicate offices to foreign cybersecurity investigations. Likewise, governments should devote resources to cybersecurity operations to deter foreign election interference. 

Beyond these goals, the U.S. should implement security protocols to protect the flow of global information. Information cannot flow freely across borders if transactions with foreign entities pose significant national security threats to American citizens. According to intelligence officials, businesses headquartered in countries that are adversaries to America – or owned by parent companies located in those countries – may present serious national security risks.

Already an indispensable part of any cyber strategy, Virginia would benefit from even greater attention to cybersecurity. Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) brings together academia, industry and government to address cybersecurity challenges. The commonwealth houses the Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and other vital agencies.

Absent a comprehensive national strategy, Virginia considers tightening data privacy and security laws

Many major cybersecurity firms have in-state offices that offer services in areas including threat intelligence, network security, data protection and incident response. Moreover, numerous startups are focusing on cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain for cybersecurity applications. Finally, Virginia’s renowned academic institutions and research centers continue to contribute to the cybersecurity landscape.

With global internet freedom declining and with autocracies like China and Russia on the move, the internet of the future could look very different from today. This policy agenda will slow the spread of digital authoritarianism and usher in an era of greater economic opportunity, increased political accountability and expanded human rights. This agenda also will help to ensure the United States maintains its global edge in technological innovation, to the benefit of freedom- loving people everywhere.

Asheesh Agarwal is the President of Agarwal Strategies, LLC, an alumnus of both the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, and an advisor to the American Edge Project.

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