That is the provocative question raised at a recent meeting of the Aspen Security Forum by former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden. To sum in up in what he called a bumper sticker phrase, Hayden discussed the possibility that at some point in the future, the United States may allow the private sector leeway to engage in the cyber battle space apart from the government.
Hayden, a career intelligence professional, referenced the history of private sector entities providing for their own defense, particularly in commercial areas where the laws governing security have been murky. While he singled out private security contractors who have played an integral- and controversial- role in current U.S. conflicts abroad, other private enterprises such as armored car services and chemical plant protection illustrate the point as well.
Hayden's comments were made in an already heightened climate of cyber security awareness. He mentioned China's widely reported hacking of Google, and just a few months ago the Pentagon declared that a cyber attack could be construed as an act of war.
Hayden says that America is currently deciding the parameters of private sector online security efforts, and stated that he is not declaring his support for a "Cyber Blackwater."
But as you watch the video below, you may get the sense that whether he agrees with it or not, Hayden sees private sector cyber mercenaries in the near future: