New Delhi: Ross Perot Jr, the son of an American billionaire who twice ran unsuccessfully for the office of the President of the US, talks about the importance of having a secure cyberspace for digital commerce, the need to have a Geneva Convention-like agreement on cyber security and the disagreements between nations on a common global framework. India will host the third global conference on cyber security next year.
Perot Jr. was the chairman of Perot Systems Corp. when it was acquired by Dell Inc. in 2009 for $3.9 billion and is now a board member of Dell. He is also the chairman of a think tank The East West Group, which is one of the partners for the conference. Edited excerpts:
How important is the role of governments in forming policies around cyber security?
You need good standards and good policies from them. But, at the end of the day, you have to let the market and industries develop products to protect customers, which they will because customers will demand secure processes. And the governments have to make sure there is a rating system—something which establishes that a particular software is a good software. Just like we rate automobiles or other products around the world, cyber products have to be rated so that people know they are safe and secure.
Security concerns: Ross Perot Jr.
What is your take on the current actions, which governments across the world are taking on this issue? Are they adequate enough to deal with the threats?
I would say that they are being very reactive to the problem and not being proactive. As Mr (Kapil) Sibal (Union minister for communication and information technology) said, we need a global vision, even a national vision. India needs its vision for cyber security, so does the US. Our government is putting a lot of resources in cyber security, our president is talking about it, there is a director in the White House for cyber security. So, at least the bureaucratic functions are being built so we have awareness and protection.
How serious are the disagreements between different nations over having a common framework on cyber security?
I think it is always going to be tough. Every nation has a different culture, a different leadership. But, we did it on the Geneva convention. The nations came together on what are the rules of warfare. We can do it also for cyberspace as well. We have presidents out there, we can do this. We have good rules around nuclear power and atomic weapons. Same issues are there with cyber security as well.
You think that developing nations such as India have a higher stake in cyber security and are more prone to cyber crimes?
Of course, because you leap-frog the whole world. We are not using cellphones for payments in the US, but you are in India. So in the US, I don’t worry about my cellphone being hacked, and my bank account being hacked through the cellphone. In India, you do. Imagine a poor farmer whose life savings are stolen by a hacked cellphone. That’s what we are trying to address.
What are the issues in cyber security that need immediate policy action?
Number one is the foundation of global commerce. Number two, it becomes more and more important in our lives every day. The third is that it has to become a trusted resource for all customers worldwide. So, the most urgent thing right now is to make sure that your personal cyber activity is secure. You don’t want your money stolen. You don’t want your personal information in the cyberspace to get into the open. So, how do we make sure we protect it? The systems are there, the technologies are there and we have to build the best practices and the consumer must become educated.
The third global cyber security summit will be held in India next year. What is its objective?
Awareness. We are trying to get the industry players together to start fixing the problem. In the end (of the conference), we hope to get action plans.