Welcome to Codebook, the cybersecurity newsletter doing laundry on New Year's Eve.
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Since it's December, you're probably up to your elbows in pundits' predictions of what will happen in 2019. That's why Codebook has asked a series of cybersecurity experts what won't happen in 2019.
Photo: Justin Tierney/EyeEm via Getty Images
But, but, but: Don't expect to see one anytime soon, said Suzanne Spaulding, former head of the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate (now called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency).
The argument for a separate department is pretty simple. Cybersecurity is an issue of growing importance, and it's one that many other nations, including Israel and England, consolidate under one roof.
The United States is, however, much bigger than either of those nations (or both combined).
In a new paper for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Spaulding argues that a centralized system might weaken security for agencies and the organizations they protect.
The bottom line: Spaulding isn't saying that there's no use for centralized services. DHS provides many cybersecurity services across the government.
No one likes passwords as a standalone tool to authenticate users. Since 2012, many groups have moved to "kill the password," using that phrase specifically. Yet we'll end the year of 2019 as password-dependent as always.
The big picture: The adage goes that there are three ways to authenticate users: asking them for a thing they know (like a password), a thing they have (like a house key) or a thing they are (like a fingerprint scan).
Everyone wants to kill the password. Google wants to kill the password. Microsoft wants to kill the password. The National Cyber Security Alliance wants to kill the password. Yahoo wanted to kill the password in 2015. Cellphone companies tried to kill it in 2014.
"Passwords won’t even be mostly dead anytime soon, because the fatality won’t spread to legacy applications that are too expensive to retrofit," said Wendy Nather, head advisory chief information security officer of Duo Security, a Cisco-owned company that specializes in bolstering login security.
The intrigue: There are other options than passwords for consumer-friendly security.
But, but, but: Users have a tendency to assume that authentication systems that are easier to use are less secure — that, somehow, the amount of effort it takes the user to do something is indicative of how difficult it would be for a hacker to break in.
Note: Wendy Nather is the sister of David Nather, managing editor at Axios.
In the United States, Russia's social media disinformation campaigns are often seen as an election-tampering issue. There's a good chance we'll spend 2019 talking about propaganda as something we have to prepare for before the 2020 election.
But, but, but: The propaganda isn't going anywhere in 2019. It's simply not tied to elections.
Russia uses these campaigns to create discord over divisive issues. There's nothing that says that kind of chaos can't happen outside of an election.
What they're saying: "The Kremlin won’t stop their efforts to sow chaos and confusion," said Camille Francois, research and analysis director for Graphika. "Our recent investigation for the U.S. Senate shows how tempting it is for the Russians: It’s proven cheap, effective and creates havoc as platforms and governments attempt to get ahead of the threat."
You can confirm Graphika's work in other ways. The Justice Department's indictment of Elena Khusyaynova, the chief accountant of the Russian misinformation campaign, shows that spending increased after the election.
A bonus from our archives: Hackers won't be able to crash the nation's energy grid for the simple reason that there is no single energy grid.
Read more about it in this Codebook piece from August, "Why crashing the grid doesn't keep cyber experts up at night."
Photo: Malorny / Getty Images
This is the last issue of Codebook for 2018, the first year this newsletter has ever existed.
This was fun. Let's do it again next year.
Codebook will be back. Eventually.