by James Scott (Sr. Fellow, ICIT) & Parham Eftekhari (Sr. Fellow, ICIT)
The rapid outbreak of cyber threats over the past few years has resulted in an abundance of events that promote faux experts and ineffective silver bullet solutions, often hosted by organizations who are more focused on luring in massive crowds of attendees and financial gain than improving the quality of their discussions and the cultivation of their participants. This epidemic has led to a state of “event fatigue” among cybersecurity leaders who are bombarded with speaking and attendance requests on a weekly basis and, thus, have all but given up hope that events are a worthwhile use of their time.
The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology has responded to this dilemma by launching ICIT Programs, a series of next-generation educational experiences produced and delivered by the Institute and its Fellows and built around the cutting edge, objective research which is the hallmark of ICIT. With ICIT Programs, the institute continues to lead from the trenches and create a trusted platform for education, collaboration, and solutions for executives from federal agencies, the U.S. Military, the legislative community, and the private sector.
In order to combat encroaching cyber threats, it is imperative that decision makers differentiate between elite educational events, which offer the exchange of ideas needed to defend against a hyper-evolving adversary, and events which are nothing more than education-theatre or, at best, are an exercise in discussing challenges while offering no actual solutions.
Objective, research-driven events like those hosted by ICIT Programs serve as the ideal platform for collaboration and innovation because the forums empower the most quintessential officials and executives to surpass communication barriers, to circumvent bureaucracy, and to avoid inefficient faux solutions. As a result of the solutions developed at these types of events, the national cybersecurity and resiliency of critical infrastructure systems improves and accelerates past the sophistication of most adversaries. Therefore, it is critical that cybersecurity leaders and practitioners identify the few organizations which host these types of events and prioritize these engagements as vital to the success of their security efforts.
The Need for In-Person Collaboration Has Never Been More Profound
The cybersecurity threat landscape is hyper-evolving past the resiliency and adaptability of any single organization. Threat actors share code, exchange exploits and learn from each other to ensure that target systems can be compromised and will persistently remain compromised. Over 430 million unique malware were discovered in 2015. ICS-CERT responded to 295 incidents in U.S. critical infrastructure organizations in 2015, a 20% increase in the number of cyberattacks against America’s critical infrastructure from 2014. The first half of 2016 ushered in the resurgence of ransomware, the emergence of cyber-jihadists, the development of Malware-as-a-Service, and the evolution of focused Deep Web marketplaces offering access to public and private systems, selling electronic health records and marketing voter registration information. These rapid advancements and developments in the black-hat side of cybersecurity were achieved through adaptation, collaboration, and innovation. The old-school procedures, defenses, and theoretical models pertaining to cybersecurity no longer guarantee secure, trusted, or resilient systems. To stay competitive in the digital age, public and private sector leaders must engage in meaningful, in-person collaboration in trusted environments to promote innovation and ensure adaptability.
Thought Leader & Research Driven Events Ensure the Development and Adoption of Bleeding-Edge Cybersecurity Solutions
Events produced without a deep understanding of the threat landscape by organizations who are not trusted experts are rife with uninformed opinions and attendees who lack the access or power necessary to incite cybersecurity reform. These gatherings result in wasted time, distracted personnel, and squandered budgets. Expert events, on the other hand, optimize the solutions produced from the time, budget, and attention provided by their select participants. Participants can evade solution overload and focus on information and technologies proven capable of meeting the needs of their organization. At these events, actual collaboration occurs amongst industry leaders and key decision makers and results in innovative, accelerated, next-generation solutions that cusp the bleeding edge of modern technology, within the practical needs and constraints of critical infrastructure organizations.
Expert Events Leverage Critical Infrastructure Stakeholder Collaboration to Bypass Communication Barriers
Information silos inhibit critical infrastructure organizations from perceiving a holistic view of the threat landscape surrounding their systems. Adversaries capitalize on the lack of communication between sectors and between organizations within sectors by adapting their malware and tactics to target similar government, private sector, and military systems, whenever their information exfiltration has succeeded or when an infection is discovered and removed. Elite expert events, like those produced by ICIT Programs, provide a medium through which the upper echelon can tear down information silos through informed, cultivated, and in-person discussions. Communication between executive counterparts ensures that essential information can be immediately discussed without delays and obstacles of asymmetric communication. Collaboration at elite roundtable forums and cultivated events results in long-lasting, networked relationships in the agencies, private sector, and military divisions that culminate into America’s critical infrastructure sectors. These connections can be leveraged as trusted information channels to develop mutually beneficial initiatives and solutions capable of mitigating the sophisticated threats that target critical infrastructure systems.
Focused Events Bypass Bureaucratic Obstacles to Facilitate Timely Action:
Internal and external bureaucracy slows critical cybersecurity decisions within organizations by months or years, and it may delay the implementation of a solution until after the threat has evolved or the threat landscape has shifted. Roundtable discussions amongst the upper echelon of key decision makers draw cybersecurity debates away from partisan opinions and bureaucratic red-tape and refocuses the discussion on the development and expedition of viable solutions that meet or exceed the needs of critical infrastructure stakeholders. The ideas discussed by the greatest minds of critical infrastructure organizations diversifies the study of a cybersecurity topic and eliminates sectorial groupthink and theoretical quagmires. The immediate conveyance of vital information may enable organizations to recognize adversarial tools, tactics, and procedures, and thereby mitigate initial infections, lateral movement, or cascading impacts. The solutions developed and breaches mitigated through the expedited information discussed improves the security posture of the participating organizations, and it strengthens the cybersecurity of the entire nation.
Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Depends on Elite Events:
Information silos, bureaucracy, and solution overload inhibit cybersecurity initiatives in critical infrastructure sectors from combatting the hyper-evolving threat landscape. Adversaries, who lack the constraints of critical infrastructure organizations, are evolving, adapting, and inflicting new harms far faster than the agency, private sector, and military entities tasked with cybersecurity response. The need for selective, collaborative, and elite events that empower cybersecurity decisions at the highest level is evident. Cultivated, collaborative events that focus on innovation and adaptive solutions will leverage information and ideas from pivotal thought leaders and key decision makers from across critical infrastructure sectors, to facilitate the expedited development and adoption of the bleeding-edge technologies necessary to outpace the modern hyper-evolving threat landscape.
For More Information on ICIT Programs Click Here.