Cybersecurity is becoming a more central portion of the US national lexicon, particularly in Washington. Recently, the House passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which has gone to the Senate for approval, and a variety of recent attacks on private organizations has brought cyber attacks into the daily news. Mischel Kwon, presently VP of Public Sector Security Solutions at RSA, The Security Division of EMC, and former director of US CERT, is fully cognizant of some of the key challenges facing the government and private sector. The New New Internet recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mrs. Kwon to discuss the role of the government in cyber security, some of the obstacles to greater cooperation and the necessity of cyber education.
TNNI: So much of the U.S. critical infrastructure is in the hands of the private sector, what role can and should the government play concerning the security and the resiliency of private sector networks?
Kwon: I believe it is a group effort. This is not something that one entity can fight and make secure all on its own. Whether it’s a critical infrastructure, an organization, or whether it’s a government entity, the key to fighting this problem is information. The best thing the government can do is share the information they have with critical infrastructure and other private entities, as well as all parts of the government, so that they can fight the problem.
There is a lot of discussion about whether or not we need regulations that mandate different priorities, auditing, and other mechanisms. The answer to that is we are not there yet. We cannot get to a point where we can do that until we start sharing the information we have first. If you don’t know what you are supposed to be looking for, or defending against, it’s hard to be mandated to do that. The first step is trying to overcome some of our information sharing problems, whether those road blocks are acquisition-type road blocks, legislative road blocks, or just classification road blocks. We need to overcome those first in order to move to a place to say ‘ok, everyone has to do this’. We also must be cautions of over prescriptive, rigid regulations.
TNNI: What are some of the major obstacles to increasing cooperation, and what are some positive steps that the U.S. should be moving towards to create more secure partnerships?
Kwon: There are a lot of obstacles. First of all, the classification obstacle is huge – figuring out what we can talk about and what we should talk about and what is actually harmful for us to talk about. As a nation, I don’t think we have figured that line out. And we need to figure out where that line is so we can appropriately classify moving forward.
This is not just a technical problem – nor is it just a problem that security people need to be involved with in solving. If you look at the international front, this is a diplomacy problem, a negotiation issue. This is no different from any other negotiations we might have with other countries. A lot of things are affected more than it just being a technical situation – for instance economies, intellectual property, and global policies. It is encouraging at least to see other entities and sectors entering into negotiations, like the State Department, making statements about recent activities. Becoming more involved in this type of negotiation is important, because this is more than just a technical problem, more than just a cyber problem. We need to bring others in to help with that international negotiation.