#RSAC: Funding Cyber Civil Defense to Help Improve the State of Security

Craig Newmark is well known for his eponymous Craig's List site, which made him a wealthy man.

At the RSA Conference 2022, Newmark, alongside Kiersten Todt, chief of staff at the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and moderator Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital, outlined the ways that private money can enable better cybersecurity.

In April of this year, Newmark pledged $50m in donations to a collection of efforts he has dubbed - cyber civil defense. Schiller noted that the $50m is intended to support a coalition of organizations focused on educating and protecting Americans to escalate cybersecurity threats.

(From left to right) Craig Newmark, Kiersten Todt and Vivian Schiller
(From left to right) Craig Newmark, Kiersten Todt and Vivian Schiller

Newmark said that in recent years, he has been supporting a lot of veterans and military family groups.  In conversations with those groups, he has asked them if he should have served in the military and what those groups tell him is that his fight should be for improved cybersecurity.

"I've been lucky enough, work-wise to fall into a pile of money, so I'm giving it away for things like this," Newmark said. "Our country is being attacked on its own soil in ways that never happened before, so people who got lucky like me should stand up for everyone else in a bunch of ways."

Working with the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative

For her part, Todt praised Newmark's philanthropy, noting that San Francisco, where the RSA Conference is held, is a city with a lot of money. Todt said that it takes a very different type of person to give back and invest where the challenges are.

Todt sees Newmark and private individuals and companies' efforts as a critical element of CISA's Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) effort, which is a real-time engagement between industry and government.

"The JCDC is really all about building trust between industry and government; that trust has to come through people," Todt said.  

Todt said that Newmark's mission with donations funding cyber civil defense is about people. She emphasized that at the end of the day, it's up to individual people to understand the accountability and responsibility they have for cybersecurity and their role as citizens and, importantly, as parts of companies and broader organizations.

Preventing the Sentient Coffee Machine Apocalypse

Looking specifically at the efforts that Newmark is helping to fund to improve the state of cyber civil defense, he noted that education is a key component.

Among the efforts that Newmark is supporting is the Ransomware Task Force, which helps to provide information and resources to prevent ransomware exploitation. He also supports the Global Cyber Alliance's Quad9 services, which provide free network-level security filtering.

Another effort that Newmark is now backing is one from Consumer Reports to help provide what are essential 'nutrition labels' for cybersecurity about consumer devices. Newmark said that his wife now has a smart wi-fi-connected coffee machine that looks a lot like a character from the SciFi movie, The Terminator.

"I want Consumer Reports to assure me that they (the coffee machines) don't have the spark of consciousness," Newmark said.

On a more serious note, Newmark emphasized that there are real risks that impact regular people every day, and there is a clear need to improve security with the right services.

"The idea is that all these services are real, and people who can step up to fund them need to do so," he said.

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