I attended a presentation by a former FBI executive director John Slattery. He spoke about his experience across more than three decades with the FBI involving counter-intelligence work and the rise of cybersecurity.
The first part of the program covered his career with the agency that spanned from agent training, to field agent, to undercover agent, then the move into management and lastly really unique roles working in CIA HQ around joint FBI/CIA efforts. His career included many external cases on counter-intelligence, as well as, some internal crisis within government agencies.
The second part of the session talked about real-world public examples in the private sector. This part of the talk demonstrated how companies were at huge risks in terms of their security protocols and technology vulnerabilities. Mr. Slattery talked about his current role consulting with both corporate and government parties around cybersecurity and internal security processes.
Key Take-Aways from the conversation that was covered in some depth.
- The top countries that are actively organizing and threatening America include:
- North Korea
- Levels of espionage and intelligence gathering are as high as cold war era.
- Technology is being employed and developed as weapons of warfare. Just like military arms and economics have been highly refined technology is the new frontier for waging conflict.
- Top areas of technology risks include:
- Planting or turning inside personnel to gather data and/or access to systems.
- Email / Phishing for data.
- Tunneling or hacking into systems.
- Big Data gathering of public data and network traffic for analytics
- The growth of IoT is creating a huge security risk for nations because of all the data and lack of security maturity in those platforms.
- The growth of the dark web and its capabilities.
- The use of social media to spread disinformation and shape public opinion by hostile groups.
- Security policies at all levels of society ( Government, Business, Social ) are not in place and lack maturity given the pace of technology evolution.
- Lack of funding to create national security assets to manage and counter the threat.
- Lack of public and business understanding of the threats and the scale of damage that can be inflicted upon public and private institutions.
The Q&A session ranged broadly across the topics above and current FBI investigations going on at the highest levels in Washington in terms of foreign powers disrupting our government. A key message here was that foreign powers have been trying to do this forever, it is just the level of sophistication is increasing exponentially.
Another key topic included the use of artificial intelligence employed in counter-intelligence. There is great potential here in terms of pattern or anomaly identification across large sets of integrated big data. The concern is that it will still take a thoughtful human interpretation of information to develop insight and provide the intervention plans required to stem the threat.
As the conversation started to cover what companies need to do it was clear that besides all the basic policy and technology infrastructure that security still must be lead by people. Every situation has its own context that must be investigated and understood. The other aspect that companies must address is that they provide the channels for employees to share concerns and have the ability TO ACT when this information is received.
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