2015 Cyber-security Summit Atlanta

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On July 15, 2015, the US Chamber of Commerce (https://www.uschamber.com) partnered with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce (https://www.gachamber.com), the Georgia Institute of Technology (http://www.gatech.edu), and the Technology Association of Georgia (http://www.tagonline.org), to present the Atlanta Cyber-security Summit (https://www.uschamber.com/event/georgia-2015-cybersecurity-summit).

The event is part of a nationwide tour stopping at various cities throughout the US to promote awareness and preparedness of companies regarding cyber-security risks and threats, as well as resources and strategies to prevent, manage, and recover from them. The half-day event included various speakers from local and national FBI, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, NIST, US Army Cyber Protection Brigade, and corporate representatives. Their presentations were full of valuable information – some new and some as refreshers, but all good components of a business cyber security toolkit.

I have put down some highlights and thoughts below, as well as some of the resource URL’s that they shared with us. What are you doing from a business standpoint on the issue of cyber-security? Do you even know where to start? One myth that we should do away with right now is that size does not matter in this arena in terms of being a target – it matters in terms of the resources we have to protect our data and mitigate incidents. But it is not futile. As a business professional you do need to think about how to incorporate some security controls in your operations. Although the message was clear from this event that our adversaries (i.e. hackers, etc.) have their own rules that they play by and will not give up the attacks, it is also clear that there are resources and help out there from the US government, military and private sectors. So read a bit, check them out, and let us know if you have any questions.

Ann M Beauchesne, Senior Vice President of the US Chamber of Commerce began her discussion with a poignant statement “The Internet is infested” and “90% of all cyber attacks are done to private companies.” She added that the focus is now on health records – “that when stolen are worth their weight in gold.”   This was a recurring theme – the records do not weigh physically but they weigh heavily with value. Another recurring message throughout the day was the increased use of social media and social networking tools by cyber-terrorists to get their messages out, recruit new jihadists, and create a cyber-jihad army. One tool spotlighted for them – YouTube.

Ann was followed by Tino Mantella, CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia. Tino indicated that in Georgia alone the cyber-security industry consists of more than 10,000 jobs and has raised $4.7 billion in revenue. His emphasis was that cyber-security is a “growing national security challenge.” Tino introduced Jim Kerr, General Counsel of Southern Company (http://www.southerncompany.com), who spoke about how the electricity industry is approaching the cyber-security threat with cooperation and collaboration. Jim talked about how vital energy was for the “health and happiness” of people and so their systems must be reliable and resilient. The challenge of cyber-security is that “we do not necessarily see them coming” and in essence “we are under attack every day – millions of times a day – in fact, people are in our systems as I speak today.” He emphasized the importance of government and industry communication and collaboration. This message was also reiterated a number of times.

Next on the agenda was Adam Sedgewick, Senior IT Policy Advisor, for The National Institute of Standards and Technology (http://www.nist.gov). Adams spoke about the NIST Cyber-Security Framework (http://www.nist.gov/cyberframework/), describing its components and its usefulness for business of all sizes, but especially small-to-midsize businesses, to ensure cyber-security in their companies. The five main concepts include: identify, protect, detect, respond, and resolve. Adam ended with a brief statement of how the US is now introducing this framework internationally (EU, Japan, etc.) to begin the conversation of worldwide standards.

One of the main objectives of these summits is to introduce local businesses to local law enforcement who can assist them should they experience an incident. Murang Pak and Michael Anaya represented Georgia FBI (https://www.fbi.gov/atlanta), and Alan Davis represented Georgia Secret Service (http://www.secretservice.gov/ectf_atlanta.shtml). An important point brought up by Agent Anaya was the fact that “hacking” technology has progressed so much that you know have “unsophisticated hackers using tools developed by very sophisticated actors.” These actors could be criminals, nation states, individuals, etc. The agents agreed on that information sharing is so important when it comes to cyber-attacks since by reviewing and analyzing the data they can “identify a migration of threats from one company to another” and can warn the company to prevent the attack from happening or from causing extensive damage and/or loss.

Following the break, the private sector panel was bright up including Matthew Eggers of the US Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Steve Cross, Executive Vice President for Research, Georgia Tech, Sean Franklin, Vice President of Cyber Intelligence for American Express (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/sean-franklin/49/76/695), and Jeff Schilling, Chief Security Office of Firehost (https://www.firehost.com).   Their discussion ended up focusing on specific threat trends and security concerns of the Internet of Things. Dr. Cross offered two great resources form Georgia Tech, their annual emerging threat report (https://www.gtisc.gatech.edu/pdf/Threats_Report_2015.pdf) and APIARY, an automated framework for malware analysis and threat intelligence (http://apiary.gtri.gatech.edu). Jeff talked about the consequence of not knowing your own system as one of the causes of cyber-security failures. “Know they self, know thy enemy” he quoted. “Do you know your own system – its vulnerabilities and its strengths?” Sean took a humorous approach to IoT “my refrigerator keeps threatening my toaster.” But his statement is funny because so many see the future truth in it. We know there are millions of devices connected to the Internet now, what happens when they start talking to each other and telling our secrets?

Before lunch Thad Odderstol, Director of Industry Engagement for the Department of Homeland Security offered a number of tools and resources for combating cyber-attacks (http://www.dhs.gov/topic/cybersecurity) and Col. Donald Bray talked about the Army Cyber Mission Force and the new Cyber Security Branch the Army is starting. Col. Bray also discussed briefly the Army training in cyber-security initiative from the Army Cyber Institute at West Point (http://www.usma.edu/acc/SitePages/Home.aspx), to the US Cyber Command (http://www.arcyber.army.mil) to be consolidated in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

The luncheon keynote brought us Mark Guiliano, Deputy Director of the FBI. He used the recent cyber-attack on SONY as an example of cooperation between government and corporate. He outlined the “dark net” that we are combating and the agility of our adversaries. He also emphasized the importance of information sharing and spoke about the Cyber-security Information Sharing Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/754) and why the government having access to encryption keys is so important. “Our job is to keep Americans safe. We can’t do that efficiently and effectively if we do not know what is going on” since right now so many criminal actors use encrypted channels to communicate and organize attacks. The Act is still being debated in Congress.

The Summit ended with the presentation of Dr. Phyllis Schneck, Deputy Undersecretary for Cyber security, National Protection, & Programs Directorate of DHS (http://www.dhs.gov/person/phyllis-schneck-nppd). Her message was two-fold. DHS number one priority is building TRUST with the private sector, and one way they will do that is to BUY new technology from them.

This half-day was packed with information and expertise. But what does it all mean. Some skeptics would say this summit was part of an organized propaganda campaign for CISA and DHS – to “educate” the private sector about the need for giving government the keys to their data and to start building the “trust” Dr. Schneck spoke about. Perhaps. But they still offered a lot of good resources and tools for small and midsize businesses, who may not have a political agenda, but do have a bottom line to protect and grow.

Did you attend the Summit in Atlanta or in another city? Share you experience and/or thoughts in the comment box below. One thing is for sure – the conversation about cyber-security will continue.

 

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