In the wake of an abundance of news headlines on data breaches, and a presidential election cycle packed with cybersecurity concerns, the University of California Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and Bipartisan Policy Center today hosted experts to discuss security challenges and solutions America will face in the new administration.
Panelists included Steven Weber, faculty director at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity; Betsy Cooper, executive director at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity; Jamie Gorelick, former deputy attorney general and partner at WilmerHale; and Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX).
The group gathered to discuss ideas that could fuel an effective plan for preventing, responding to, and recovering from cyber attacks.
Weber acknowledged part of the problem for many people is that cybersecurity still feels like a technical issue related to the protection of computer networks. It's time to "demystify the network" for folks outside the core tech sector, he said.
"What happens when individuals everywhere interact with digital technologies?" he questioned, saying there are bigger and broader issues at play.
Cooper addressed the need for change in addressing the future of cybersecurity, noting how this problem "is an existential challenge we haven't fully recognized yet." The new administration must have a stronger approach to the growth of cybersecurity problems.
Another issue addressed during the panel was the need for a public campaign on cybersecurity, similar to campaigns launched in the past to raise awareness about problems like recycling and smoking.
"We're suggesting the situation is serious enough in cybersecurity that we need a public awareness campaign," Cooper emphasized. "People should be aware of strong passwords, of two-factor authentication from an early age."
Weber compared the problem of cybersecurity with the problem of secondhand smoke. He said people are motivated by the negative externalities of the issue; not only how it comes with a personal cost, but how it affects their community as a whole.
"When people recognize their dangerous behavior is a risk to family and neighbors, there's another lever we can pull," he said. "Companies will start to respond to that as the demand [for change] starts to emerge. We need to get that conversation started right now, and who is better than a new administration?"
The panel also addressed the cybersecurity skills shortage. There is a great demand for cybersecurity professionals, said Cooper, but universities aren't producing enough talent to fill the gap.
Part of the problem is fear of being in the security space long-term, she said.
"In these industries, it's hard to keep up-to-date with technology," Cooper explained. "It's hard to convince people it's a fun and exciting area." She noted how providing loan forgiveness for cybersecurity professionals may drive motivation to enter the industry.
Weber agreed that society needs to take the cybersecurity problem seriously enough to subsidize education.
"Security issues are hard, involve classified data and techniques, and there isn't a sense that the world thinks of those things as super important," he said. Right now, there are many people who could generate the skills needed for a first-rate cyber workforce, but they're out doing different things.
Weber acknowledged this could be an opportunity to circulate ideas between the East and West coasts, and help people from Washington, DC and Silicon Valley work together.
Panelists also recognized the need for public and private administration to work together and overcome the cybersecurity challenge. "We're crazy to think the government or private sector can address the problem alone," said Hurd.