Intel Community to Tackle State of Cybersecurity at Fall Summit

July 15, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
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Cyber breaks into the world of intelligence as calamitous breaches distress nation.

Cyber intelligence is the emerging buzz term as the United States works to fend off not just attacks by criminals and nation-state hackers, but terrorists calling for an electronic jihad.

“They recognize that our critical infrastructure—power, energy, transportation, communications, the financial services sector—our economic and national security rides on those rails, and if they’re able to disrupt them, they will have the same impact on this country as they did by flying planes into buildings,” Shawn Henry, chief security officer and president of CrowdStrike Services, said during a recent Federal News Radio broadcast, which covered the state of cybersecurity in government and offered a preview of the cyber discussions slated for the upcoming Intelligence and National Security Summit this fall.

The latest breach of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) database, in which hackers pilfered detailed and sensitive data of 21.5 million current and former federal employees and their families, highlights that nation’s cyber shortcomings, in spite of the billions of dollars spent on cybersecurity, the creation of a multitude of government-backed initiatives, programs and defenses, and implementation of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative nearly a decade ago.

“Eight years after there was a plan, and it was funded, it has not ben executed broadly across the government,” Henry said. “That’s not acceptable because I think the stakes are too high. Our economic and national security is tied to this risk, and our failure to address this risk is going to mean dire consequences for the United States.”

Rather than forging significant advances in cybersecurity, U.S. experts are in a game of whack-a-mole with the ever-changing and maturing ecosystem of hackers and criminals. “I think we’ve been reactive to what is the latest threat vector, and then we put new technologies in place—and sometimes it takes literally years to put those in place—and in the meantime, something that is as critical to the United States as the OPM personnel database was really left unguarded,” said Terry Roberts, founder and president of CyberSync Inc., and a co-chair of the cyber track panel discussions along with Henry at the Intelligence and National Security Summit September 9 and 10 in Washington, D.C.

The United States is reeling from devastating blows stemming from the WikiLeaks scandal to Snowden and now OPM, Roberts writes in a SIGNAL blog. “The fact is this data was one of the ‘crown jewels’ of the U.S. government, and yet it apparently was not given the appropriate interagency priority, nor did it receive the multilevel, encrypted data protection accorded to our most precious secrets,” Roberts writes. “So while we know that the majority of government has made important cybersecurity and information assurance progress over the past 5 years, the majority of U.S. government organizations are not yet consistently resilient and successful at protecting their crown jewels.”

The U.S. government has made progress in shoring up cyber vulnerabilities, just not across the board, said Roberts, who was part of creating the cyber initiative in 2008-2009.  

Cyber has entered the realm of intelligence and will be featured prominently during the two-day intelligence summit jointly hosted by AFCEA International and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).

The unclassified summit will focus not just on top policy, technology and now cyber issues, but on solutions as well, Roberts said. Attendees will have the “rare opportunity” of hearing from agency leaders, who tend not to speak often in open forums about the secretive world of intelligence.

The summit headlines James Clapper, director of National Intelligence; Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; Adm. Michael Rogers, USN, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service; Betty Sapp, director of the National Reconnaissance Office; and Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, USMC, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“Intelligence is the key factor in any type of national security environment,” Henry stated in the broadcast.

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