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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
Education

Cybersecurity expert: Be afraid; be very afraid

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Published:   |   Updated: May 12, 2014 at 07:45 PM

— With 20 years of Internet history behind us, do we have a handle on cybersecurity?

Jane Holl Lute, president and chief executive officer of the Council on Cybersecurity and former deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, answers with a resounding no.

“We are enormously reliant on cyberspace, but life online is fundamentally unsafe,” she said Monday at the University of South Florida. “Reliant as we are, even two decades after the popularization of access to the World Wide Web and the Internet, there’s essentially nothing you can do online, nothing you can do on the Internet that is secure.”

That seemed almost a challenge to the information technology specialists, cyberscholars and Internet experts gathered at USF’s Patel Center to discuss current challenges and the potential future of cybersecurity.

USF will house the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, envisioned as a hub for all cybersecurity efforts in the state, and Monday’s event also served as a bit of a celebration that the concept has now been approved by the Legislature and awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s signature.

It is slated for launch this fall, with a $30 million center to take on cybercrime eventually envisioned.

Holl Lute repeated a joke that’s apparently big in the cybersecurity community: “There are only two kinds of companies — those that have been breached, and those that know it.”

But four steps can prevent 80 to 90 percent of cyberattacks. She said she asks business executives that she works with, “Do we know what’s connected to our network? Do we know what’s running on our network or trying to run on our network? Are we limiting and controlling those people in our organization, or outside, who have the administrative permission to change, bypass or override our security controls?”

Finally, she asks, “Are the machines in the game — do we have an automated system on our network to detect (malicious) behavior and vulnerabilities and allow us to patch within 48 hours?”

Tommy Mancino, a tech entrepreneur and educator with a long history in cybersecurity, echoed the point in Holl Lute’s one-liner by telling the crowd that Gregg Steinhafel, former head of retailer Target, was not fired because that chain suffered a massive security breach — “everybody gets breached” — but because the company underperformed after the breach was discovered.

Mancino predicted that there will be heightened levels of awareness of cybersecurity issues among the business world’s boards of directors, and there will be increased regulatory requirements surrounding cyberspace.

Attendees also heard from Col. John Burger, chief of the Joint Cyber Center at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, and Jack Tomarchio, co-chairman of the Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney/Fowler White Boggs law firm’s Cybersecurity and Data Protection Group. jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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