Black Hat 2010: Cybersecurity is top priority for Homeland Security

Described by Philippe Courtout of Qualys as “the most important annual industry event”, Black Hat founder and director Jeff Moss announced this year’s conference to the biggest yet.

Jane Holl Lute, who has over thirty years of military and senior executive experience in the US government, began her keynote by announcing what the United States of America needs: “We need a safe and secure homeland, new wealth, strong friends and allies and predictable relationships with other countries”, she said.

The current cyber threats that challenge Homeland Security, said Lute, are: “that they can steal our data, our identities, stuff from our past lives and stuff from our future. We need to protect against these threats but we can’t do that without talking about these threats”.

Lute explained how cyberwar, unlike physical wars, won’t take lives, “but it will destroy them. In war, geography is key. In cyberwar, the boundaries of space and time are broken down. Location can not be our ticket to security”.

Some of the challenges surrounding cyberspace, Lute said, are “the lawlessness – there is no order, or contested order. It’s hard to feel secure when there are no boundaries”. War and cyberwar aren’t inevitable, she said, “and we shouldn’t act like it is. We need to stop thinking of cyberspace as a combat zone and strive for confidence”.

Of Homeland Security’s five prioritised missions, ‘ensuring the safety and security of cyberspace’ is amongst them. “People were surprised about this”, she revealed to an audience that are unanimously unsurprised.

While technology trends continue to innovate and progress, “it’s actually preceding our grasp. We’re lagging behind technology, and our laws are also lagging behind”.

Lute assured her audience that Homeland Security are very busy addressing cybersecurity, and “know how essential it is. Education, too, is essential. The best ideas out there haven’t been thought of yet”.

While Lute expressed confidence in America being able to protect its privacy and its rights, she admitted that “we don’t know everything”.

The essential problem, announced Lute, echoing the sentiments of Moss’ opening speech, “is that we’ve spent billions of dollars on cybersecurity, yet none of the fundamental problems have been fixed.”


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