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Cybersecurity Conference Considers Challenges; Debates Need for New Solutions

WASHINGTON July 28, 2010 –Speaking at a conference on cybersecurity hosted by the Department of Commerce yesterday, one expert argued that when it comes to cybersecurity threats, “we don’t need a new strategy.” The speaker, Philip Reitinger of the Department for Homeland Security, made the observation in the introduction to his remarks on how combating cybersecurity might be accomplished in the current climate.

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WASHINGTON July 28, 2010 –Speaking at a conference on cybersecurity hosted by the Department of Commerce yesterday, one expert argued that when it comes to cybersecurity threats, “we don’t need a new strategy.” The speaker, Philip Reitinger of the Department for Homeland Security, made the observation in the introduction to his remarks on how combating cybersecurity might be accomplished in the current climate.

“Heaven help us from a new strategy! We don’t need a new strategy. We need to evolve our strategy,” Reitinger said. “We can’t let the urgent completely trump the strategic and critical. We all depend upon an internet ecosystem that is fundamentally insecure. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s designed in a way for resiliency but not necessarily in a way with security built in.”

Reitinger’s remarks drew laughs from his fellow panelists Cita Furlani, Vint Cerf, Michael Barrett and Ken Silva in what was the fourth and final panel of the day-long conference.

The prospect of a “new strategy” for dealing with cybersecurity was, Reitinger’s speech excepted, cited as a necessity by almost every panelist and speaker at the event. One persistent theme that emerged from several speakers’ remarks was the market failure involved in creating incentives for consumers to care about cybersecurity.

According to Larry Clinton, President of the Internet Security Alliance and a member of the third panel, “All the incentives are on the side of the attacker. It’s cheap; your chances of getting caught are negligible. If you think about it, you’d wonder why you’re not in this business.”

Clinton sketched out the issue using the example of credit card identity theft. “Let’s assume someone compromises my credit card. The places he buys this stuff from are fine,” Clinton said. “I’m fine. The banks that didn’t do anything get all the costs. The costs are misaligned with respect to the economics of cybersecurity.”

Michael Barrett of Paypal shifted focus on the problem of market failure by pointing out the disproportionality between criminal responses to cybercrime and criminal responses to real-life crime.

“If I steal an iPad in real life, I will be stopped by some burly and rather unfriendly employee at the door,” Barrett said. “If I steal the equivalent of ten iPads on the net, no one gives a damn. In fact, ten isn’t even interesting. A hundred, maybe.”

Vint Cerf, Vice President of Google, put the problem most succinctly in the fourth panel. “The people who cause a lot of the problems do not suffer the consequences,” Cerf said.

While market failure was a persistent theme in the conference, government failure was also a constant warning voiced by panelists. “For any of the policy influencers in the room, as you’re working through these things, I’d almost implore you to stay on the side of simplicity,” said Mark Mattis of Costco Wholesale during the third panel discussion. “It’s already a complex network out there that we have to maneuver.”

Meanwhile, in the first panel, Kristin Lovejoy, Vice President of Security Strategy at IBM, warned that the search for perfect solutions was futile from a business perspective. “There is no such thing as 100 percent security,” Lovejoy said. “There is no such thing as return without risk.”

Both of these problems – the increasing incentives for cyber-attacks, and the challenges facing a public-private partnership surrounding the issue – were acknowledged by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke in the opening speech of the convention.

“The importance of cybersecurity can be summed up in just one word: confidence,” Locke said, identifying three threats to consumer confidence that existing research predicted. “First, malicious access is emanating from the developing countries; second, thieves are seeking customer information; third, attacks that consumers usually fall prey to are evolving.”

However, Locke admitted that combating these various threats to cybersecurity was not necessarily a straightforward process. “For businesses, a more tailored approach to cybersecurity might be needed,” Locke said.

Mytheos Holt recently graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Government and History, receiving high honors in Government. He served as a weekly columnist at the Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan University's campus-wide newspaper, and founded the Wesleyan Witness political commentary magazine. He is originally from Big Sur, Calif., and currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Cybersecurity

Private Sector Falling Behind on Information Sharing During Cyberattacks, Says Comcast Rep

Comcast’s Noopur Davis says cyber attackers share information better than the private sector.

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Noopur Davis, Chief Product and Information Officer at Comcast Cable.

ASPEN, Colorado, August 23 — In the wake of an influx of ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure and cyberattacks on private carriers, entities across the technology industry are revaluating their strategies and how they share information to prevent such acts.

T-Mobile announced on August 15 that as many as 50 million consumers had their private data compromised during a data breach. Days later, on August 17, as part of Technology Policy Institute’s 2021 Aspen Forum, Noopur Davis, Chief Product and Information Officer at Comcast Cable, sat down for a fireside chat to discuss what the industry was doing to address this event and events like it.

Join in Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s Discussion on “Cybersecurity: Reviewing the Biden Administration’s Executive Order,” on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, at 12 Noon ET.

When Davis was asked how she felt about the current state of cybersecurity, she said it was okay, but that the telecom community at large would have to do more.

She referenced the mean time of comfort—that is, the average duration between the time that a service becomes connected to the internet and when it is targeted by bad actors. While in the early days of the internet cybersecurity experts could expect to have significant mean times of comfort, she stated that this is no longer the case.

“The second you connect [to the internet] you are attacked,” she said.

As soon as a successful breach is recognized, Davis explained that the target companies begin to revaluate their “TTP,” or tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Information sharing is crucial

Though one company may find a remedy to their breach, other companies may remain vulnerable. To combat this, Davis said that it is critical for companies to share information quickly with their counterparts, but she indicated that this is a race that the private sector is currently losing.

“[Attackers] share information better than [the private industry does].”

She went further, revealing that there is now a sophisticated market for malware as a service, where various platforms publish reviews for their products and services and even offer tech support to those struggling to get the most out of their purchases.

Growing market for hacking tools

She pointed to the Colonial Pipeline attack as an example where hackers did not even create the malware themselves—they just purchased it from a provider online. She explained that this marketplace has significantly lowered the barriers of entry and deskilled the activity for would be attackers, and that theoretically anyone could engage in such nefarious acts today.

Though Davis was in favor of collaboration between companies to address these attacks, she made it clear that this would not mean that responses and capabilities would become standardized, and that every company would maintain their own unique strategies to ensure that their services and data remain uncompromised.

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Cybersecurity

DOJ Official Supports Mandatory Breach Reporting

Proposed legislation would make it mandatory for companies to report cyberattacks.

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Richard Downing from the Senate judiciary committee last week

August 2, 2021—An official from the Department of Justice urged members of the Senate judiciary committee last week to proceed with legislation requiring companies to report ransomware attacks to federal agencies.

Richard Downing, deputy assistant attorney general of the criminal division within the department, told the committee studying cybersecurity during a hearing that such mandatory breach reporting legislation would aid in its defense against cyberattacks.

There is currently no federal law requiring such disclosures, but bipartisan Senate legislation co-sponsored by Senator Angus King, I-Maine, would change that. Titled Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021, the bill was introduced last month.

This legislation would require all contractors, federal agencies, companies, and organizations critical to U.S national security to report all breaches of data to the Department of Homeland Securities’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours.

The bill and discussions about it come in light of high-profile cyberattacks that have targeted software company SolarWinds and oil transport company Colonial Pipeline in the last several months. And the discussion isn’t expected to slowdown as more critical infrastructure is hooked up to the internet.

The Last week, the House energy committee approved a series of cyber bills that would improve telecom network security.  

Cyber threats becoming more bold

Downing noted that threat actors are becoming bolder and more sophisticated, and that the government must hasten efforts to thwart attacks and stay ahead of such malicious acts.

“Many actors now research their victims—identifying the victim’s net worth, the cost of a business interruption, and even the value of their cyber insurance policy—to extort as much money as possible,” Downing said during the hearing.

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Cybersecurity

House Energy Committee Approves Series of Cyber Bills to Improve Telecom Security

The committee approved five bills dealing with protecting networks and educating the public on cyberattacks.

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Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey

July 26, 2021—The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a series of cybersecurity bills. 

“These bipartisan bills will educate the public, smaller providers, and small businesses on how best to protect their telecommunications networks and supply chains,” said committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey.

The bills approved in the session includes the Understanding Cybersecurity of Mobile Networks Act, or H.R. 2685, which was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois. That bill would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to conduct examination reports on the vulnerability of networks and mobile service devices to cyberattacks.

Other legislation passed in the committee Wednesday deals with the cooperation of enterprises and educational institutions working with federal agencies to promote secure networks and supply chains. 

The Information and Communication Technology Strategy Act, or H.R. 4028, was introduced reps. Billy Long, R-Missouri, Abigail Spanberger, D-Virginia, Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, and Jerry McNerney, D-California, and would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report analyzing the economic competitiveness of vendors within the information and communication technology supply chain.

“I think this bill is critically important to ensure that we are thinking about our supply chain security and do what we can to aid a robust marketplace for com equipment,” said McNerney.  

To assure that small telecommunications operators would receive assistance from the federal government, H.R. 4032, the Open RAN Outreach Act, introduced by reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas, Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky, and Richard Hudson, R-North Carolina, directs the NTIA to provide outreach to providers with regard to open radio access networks.

With the future moving toward 6G networks, H.R. 4045 – the Future Uses of Technology Upholding Reliable and Enhanced Networks Act or the FUTURE Networks Act, and introduced by reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Lucy McBath, D-Georgia – serves to authorize the FCC to create a task force on this matter.

Members of the task force will comprise representatives from the telecommunications industry, public interest organizations, academic institutions, and federal, state and local governments. 

The committee also moved forward the American Cybersecurity Literacy Act, or H.R. 4055, to raise public awareness of cyberattacks. This bill requires the NTIA develop a cyber literacy campaign to educate the public about cybersecurity risks and prevention measures. 

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