Report from the 2016 Cybersecurity Conference
If you asked an average businessperson to think for a moment about efforts to stop hacking and increase digital security, their immediate thoughts would probably turn to labs in Silicon Valley or bureaus in Washington, D.C.—and they’d be right. Despite our state’s strong information technology industry, digital security still isn’t a top-of-mind concern for too many executives. Efforts to improve cybersecurity have historically been focused in the areas of highest capability and greatest perceived need – even if that may not be where the greatest security vulnerabilities are.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted their 2016 Cybersecurity Conference in Detroit for some very good reasons. Despite the higher profile that digital security has gotten in recent years, companies and government bodies still don’t take security as seriously as they need to. That creates windows of vulnerability that hackers are all too ready to exploit – and in a region focusing heavily on advanced technologies like connected vehicles, dynamic utility management, and advanced manufacturing, it poses a big problem.
A lot of Michigan’s future prosperity is going to depend on data and the systems that manage it – and their security, or lack thereof, may do a lot determine the success of individual companies and the state as a whole. At the conference, experts from government, the IT industry, and the wider business community joined forces to shine a spotlight on cybersecurity’s importance to Michigan and its industries, to identify key areas for concern, and increase awareness of its importance.
Conference participants included a veritable “who’s who” of experts from the public and private sectors:
- Early in the day, the Department of Homeland Security’s Kelvin Coleman detailed the agency’s role in identifying threats and communicating information to the private sector.
- Congressman Dave Trott and former Congressman Mike Rogers provided the keynote addresses.
- Michael Spierto of the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures led a panel discussion concerning cybersecurity perspectives within the automotive industry.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Adam Sedgewick addressed best practices in developing company information security frameworks.
- A panel led by the Chris Furlow, President, Ridge Global addressed executive awareness of cybersecurity, including legal, PR, and regulatory ramifications.
It was a full day, packed with a lot of good information – my biggest take aways were:
- While federal and state government do have resources to help business improve their cybersecurity stance, most of the heavy lifting still has to fall on private industry. Over 80% of US networks are private and offer softer targets for cyber adversaries. 85% of critical infrastructure (utilities, health care, etc.) are in the hands of the private sector. True cybersecurity has to be a team effort between private industry and government, with CEO’s not just CIO’s acting as cybersecurity “Paul Reveres”.
- The majority of cybersecurity focus is on high end security appliances or applications, but, the most effective tool business has in enhancing cybersecurity is good IT hygiene. This includes the basics like a firewall, anti-virus/malware protection and making sure that your devices are patched and up to date.
The conference’s most important take-away was something not listed on the formal agenda: Michigan needs to take cybersecurity seriously, and area business leaders are anxious to amplify that message. The stakes are simply too high not to.
Naturally, we at Red Level are happy to see a high-profile meeting of minds like this take place in our own back yard. We have a front-row seat to cybersecurity threats and their ramifications, and we see what happens when the issue isn’t taken seriously. We welcome the increased focus on information security and the willingness of private and public sector entities to work together to maintain it; as the scale and frequency of threats rises in years to come, it will prove to be a critical partnership.