The world gathers to secure cyberspace

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Cybersecurity experts from the federal government and around the globe have converged in Dallas, Texas for the World Wide Cybersecurity Summit.

The biggest challenge in cybersecurity faced by the world today, the Director of the initiative, Vatan Sarkissian, is “there is no dialogue, or there is very limited dialogue.”

Cybersecurity cannot operate in some kind of a vacuum. So it needs various elements to come together. Not only the sectors but also all the backgrounds from academic and legal and tech, corporate, but also various countries. So this summit is bringing together 40 nations.

The key, Sarkassian told Federal News Radio, is bringing the right people to the table.

There’s a disconnect on international level between the key leaders and participants. And this is a different sphere where the leaders and the participants are not just the politicians, but the corporate sector, the academic sector, the legal sector, the technology and the policy. So what this conference, this summit, is doing is bringing various permutations of experts, leaders and opinion makers together in one place to be able to create concrete mix that’s on eight sectors, eight critical sectors.

Once together in the same place at the same time, said Sarkissian, “the next steps would devise a roadmap on how we can create a more resilient and a more secure infrastructure in energy, ICT, transportation, national security, essential governmental services, media and other essential sectors.”

That’s not to say that one roadmap will be enough. While some of the sectors share threats, not all areas face the same challenges.

There are cross-sector threats and challenges and issues, but there are also sector specific challenges. Cybersecurity can be such a complex area that it’s sometimes more difficult, when you’re talking on an international level, to look at something so large that concerns all the sectors, that the conversations and the mistrust can continue. Part of the aim of the summit is not only to look at the big topics, but also to look at the small what I call “low hanging fruit.” What the low hanging fruit does is it begins the cooperation between various nations and countries and companies. And that way we begin this process of dialogue.

Presenters at the summit include Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former Chief of Computer Crime and Intellectual Property in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice Scott Charney, and Melissa Hathaway, former Acting Senior Director for Cyberspace for the U.S. National Security and Homeland Security Councils.

But the World Wide Cybersecurity Summit, said Sarkissian, is about much more than presentations. It “kick starts a process of various events and projects that will continue working in each of these sectors, as well as cross-sector, to be able to not only find the challenges, also to identify the solutions per challenge, and also look at the next steps. How do we actually deploy and implement these solutions.”

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