This past Thursday, Onepath held a Cybersecurity Fireside Chat at the Harvard Club in downtown Boston. We were honored to bring Brian Shield, vice president for information technology for the Boston Red Sox and Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and Internal Affairs and former assistant secretary of defense for global security together for this intimate and informative chat.
I have participated in many events like this over my career and for those in attendance, they were witness to one of the absolute best cybersecurity talks I have ever witnessed. Despite their impressive credentials and experience, Brian and Eric were incredibly gracious, humble, down to earth and relatable. They shared their experiences throughout their careers in dealing with the evolving cybersecurity threat landscape and shared many actionable tips to help others improve.
Eric shared the three things that most concern him when it comes to the current cybersecurity threat landscape. First is ransomware, a malicious software you can be tricked into launching on your computer that will encrypt all the data that computer can access. This renders the data inaccessible. When anyone tries to access the data, they are presented with a ransom note they must pay to regain access to the data. Eric shared that one of his great disappointments with our nation is that ransomware came to be because of leaks from the NSA and Department of Defense of offensive cyber weapons that fell into the hands of bad actors and adversarial nation states. He expects ransomware to continue to evolve.
Second, he shared his belief that nation states will continue to be the lead bad actors. Cyber is an asymmetrical weapon that can level the playing field for adversarial nations that cannot compete with the West militarily. As an example, he shared that countries like North Korea use ransomware to raise funds to get around sanctions and as we now know, the Russian government launched info ops to seed dissent to create doubts about our democracy. He expects such info ops to continue and evolve. Third, Eric feels artificial intelligence will help defensively, but could also be used to increase the effectiveness of AI based info ops.
Brian talked about the importance of intellectual property within organizations like a Major League Baseball organization. From the medical information about their players to the extensive database of prospective players, these are some of the most important assets of the organization and protecting them is a priority. A compromised account of a former MLB team employee spurred the MLB to act and create a cybersecurity program for all MLB teams.
Cybersecurity requires a holistic approach. It’s not just about deploying defensive technologies. Education and a culture of awareness and prevention are critical to an organization’s success in keeping itself safe. You can deploy all the technology available and still be a victim due to an uneducated user making a poor choice.
Incident response plans are critical. The last thing you want to do is create a plan while responding to a cybersecurity incident. Brian and Eric recommended doing a table-top exercise to test your plan before you need it. This will help identify gaps, whether it is how to restore access to critical IT systems or how to inform your employees, customers and the public should you have an incident.
Cybersecurity is very interconnected. Private industry is constantly being targeted. Assume you are and recognize we are all on the front line. Eric said he feels we have an obligation to our country to confront and protect ourselves against these threats. He feels it is our patriotic duty to do so as this is a national security issue for us all. Imagine if bad actors are able to disrupt enough businesses or cause failures for iconic American brands. It could shake the confidence of our society, thus the imperative to take this more seriously than we ever have.
While daunting on the surface, we have access to more resources than ever. A simple thing everyone can do is use two factor authentication across all of your accounts. A great resource to determine how to enable two factor authentication is https://twofactorauth.org. Check it out and enable your accounts. It’s your patriotic duty.