For years there have been well documented discussions about the need to expand gender and racial diversity in cybersecurity. People have argued that if we address social and systemic issues separately, we will get the technology right. However, the social and the technological are mutually constitutive. Bringing in new points of view is crucial to cybersecurity, but we also have to change the systems in which technology is embedded and review technology against the backdrop of larger systemic issues to reduce vulnerabilities.

Technical and policy mitigations in cybersecurity need to account for the weaknesses of our society, systems, and institutions in their implementations. The places where democracy breaks down and the ugliness of our past sins are laid bare and unaddressed are where we are most vulnerable. Technical and policy mitigations to cybersecurity challenges will never reach their full potential until systemic racism is addressed and diverse voices are reflected among our ranks at all levels.

The spread of disinformation that capitalizes on racial tensions in the United States, by both foreign and domestic actors, is an important but classic reminder of the need to address race. The narratives of the disenfranchised are the best tool and target for disinformation operations designed to incite the majority and further alienate minority groups. Crucially, exploiting the narratives of disenfranchised groups, especially Black Americans [PDF], is a powerful tactic used to radicalize minorities, one we have seen Iran and other countries use. Addressing inequality and systemic racism reduces if not eliminates the efficacy of this tactic.

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Guest Blogger (2020, June 15). Systemic Racism Is a Cybersecurity Threat. Council on Foreign Relations.