First, because we're all connected to a digital tether
Look on any city sidewalk, in any coffee shop, or any jogging path. We're plugged in. All the time. We're texting or posting to Facebook. We're ordering from Amazon and paying bills on smartphones. We're tweeting at dinner — about dinner. And with every tap and swipe, we add to a colossal digital dossier of modern life.
In many cases, we don't even have to open an app. Wearable sensors now record heartbeats, steps, and track wherever we go. And all of it, every interaction, is logged somewhere, collected for advertisers, data brokers, and even government agencies to analyze and scrutinize.
The rapid advance of the Internet and computing power has brought about tremendous opportunity and countless benefits. But it also raises fresh concerns as we rush head first to embrace the latest technology.
That's where we come in. The Monitor is launching Passcode, a section covering online security and privacy to explore the toughest questions and most pressing issues of the digital age.
Passcode comes at a critical time. No matter what you think about Edward Snowden leaking classified NSA documents, he set off a raging global privacy debate. Since then, both Google and Apple have announced they would toughen security on smartphones — a move that FBI Director James Comey suggested was the result of "the post-Snowden pendulum" that he said "has swung too far in one direction — in the direction of fear and mistrust."
Is he right? If not, what is the right balance? And it's not just consumers who struggle with protecting themselves. Banks, corporations, small businesses, government agencies, the military, and nonprofits all are thinking differently about how to secure information and maintain privacy.
The challenges are not just limited to information security. It's about all security. The spread of sophisticated and networked machines raises the specter of electronic attacks. Industrial powers are concerned that rival nations, hacktivists, or terrorists could penetrate the most critical parts of their infrastructure — say, the power grid. In the US, it's the kind of thing the Pentagon worries about — a lot. In fact, its 2015 budget requested $5.1 billion for cybersecurity efforts.
The rush to shore up online defenses in the US and abroad, along with a rethinking of privacy across the connected world, makes the stories that Passcode will uncover more important than ever. As we near our launch in January, we hope you'll sign up to stay current on Passcode developments.
Our approach is unique
We will apply trademark Monitor reporting — thoughtful, analytical, and solutions-oriented — as we cover security and privacy. We won't buy into the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often fuel the cybersecurity market. We aim to go deeper than just revealing the latest breach or hack. We'll explore for the root causes. We will never speak in technobabble.
We'll use the Monitor's network of correspondents around the world to offer a global perspective on security and privacy. We'll deliver investigative stories with reporters on the ground in places like Berlin and Beijing. We'll bring you the freshest ideas from around globe on how to safeguard the Internet, and explain the complex topics for anyone — not just the experts — who cares about navigating the Web safely and securely.
Passcode will be a must-read whether you're a stakeholder working in information security, a startup that wants to prevent a data breach, or an Internet user with zero technical background.
We have great journalists and big thinkers on security and privacy
Passcode is anchored in Boston and Washington, D.C. Michael B. Farrell is Passcode's editor. He was previously a technology reporter for The Boston Globe and before that the San Francisco Bureau Chief for The Christian Science Monitor. Sara Sorcher is the deputy editor and most recently served as the national security correspondent for National Journal. Her work has been featured in major outlets including ABC News, The New York Times, TIME, and GlobalPost.
We've also invited these talented and award-winning journalists to join the Passcode team.
Jaikumar Vijayan was most recently a senior editor at Computerworld and has covered NSA surveillance, big box data breaches, information security, and online privacy issues.
Paul F. Roberts is a veteran security reporter who runs his own blog, Security Ledger and founded a conference on the security of the Internet of Things.
Fruzsina Eördögh is well known for her work covering tech culture, digital trends, hackers, and hacktivists.
Passcode will be a place for provocative ideas and strong opinions, too. Every month, each of these influential and distinct thinkers will offer perspectives on topics ranging from cybersecurity to cryptography to Internet privacy.
Nicole Wong served as deputy chief technology officer at the White House where she coauthored the Obama administration's influential report on big data and privacy.
The Christian Science Monitor has a history of enterprising cybersecurity coverage. Mark Clayton, a longtime Monitor staff writer, covered the cybersecurity beat until he passed away earlier this year, just as Passcode was taking shape. He wrote some of the most groundbreaking and important work on cybersecurity. In 2010, he uncovered sources who indicated the Stuxnet computer worm was a weapon aimed at an Iranian nuclear power plant. His work is the inspirational basis for Passcode. Joe Uchill, a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, joins our team in Boston as the first Mark Clayton Cybersecurity Fellow.
Join the discussion. Meet us in person for Passcode events
Passcode's first live event was this October, featuring a candid discussion with the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. He talked about how selfies might replace passwords and how the Obama administration is changing tactics to push cybersecurity legislation on the Hill.
The event, pictured above, gathered together some of the foremost thinkers in the field. They included, from left to right, Frank Cilluffo, director of George Washington University's cybersecurity initiative, Peter Singer, a fellow at the New America Foundation, Jeff Moss, founder of Black Hat and DefCon conferences, in a conversation with Scott Bates, president of the Center for National Policy.
We want you to come to our next event, and we hope you will sign up at www.CSMPasscode.com to stay updated as we move toward launch. If you’re on Twitter, follow @CSMPasscode. You can email us at email@example.com.
Stay tuned. We have a lot more coming soon.