As we kick off 2014, I am starting the New Year with an interview series, which will provide an overview of the cybersecurity industry. I spoke with Vice President and Client Executive at Xerox, Chuck Brooks, discussing various components of the cybersecurity market. Xerox is a $22 billion corporation and is one of the largest holders of patents on the globe. In his role, Chuck often writes and speaks on evolving technologies, cybersecurity, public/private sector collaboration, and using social media for government.
Chuck has served as the first Director of Legislative Affairs at the Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. He’s also served in several senior executive roles in the corporate world, he was a member of the Adjunct Faculty at The Johns Hopkins University, and served as a Senior Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter on national security and foreign affairs issues. Chuck’s educational background includes an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from DePauw University. He has also studied at The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.
Specifically, in this interview, we examine cybersecurity development and research.
Why is research and development into cyber security technologies so important today?
We are a connected world, and the urgency of cybersecurity research and development is directly related to the rapid changes in the information technology landscape. Since 2002, the capabilities and connectivity of cyber devices and communications has grown exponentially. So have the cyber intrusions and threats from malware and hackers, requiring restructuring of priorities and missions. The cyber threat reaches far beyond Al Qaeda, and includes various criminal enterprises and adversarial nation states. As the sophistication of the threats grows, we must be able to continually counteract them. R & D investments also helps address the cybersecurity skills gap by training more professionals to help control risk in the increasingly complex digital landscape.
Is it possible to keep pace with the cyber criminals?
Nothing in the cyber world is invulnerable. There are more targeted, persistent, sophisticated attacks global in destination as well as origination each year. On the technology side new advances in quantum computing, identity management/ authentication, software assurance, real-time monitoring & diagnostics, end-point security, and forensics are providing the tools to help neuter cyber criminals. However, to keep pace, it does take more than just new technology. The weak point is often the human interaction. Since a good portion of cyber intrusion is facilitated by insiders, situational awareness and education about the treats are also very important in the cybersecurity equation. A holistic approach involving people, processes, and technologies will lead to the best possible protection and resiliency. Another important factor in keeping pace is elevating global cooperation via information sharing an enforcement against criminal enterprises. Collaboration in the international financial community to help mitigate threats is now becoming a part of best commercial practices. Recently that community held a table top exercise called Quantum Dawn 2 that simulated cyber-attack and the need for coordinated response.
What are the benefits of having the national labs play a role in cyber R & D?
The nation’s 40 federally funded R&D centers spent $ billions on research and development last year and have compiled a treasure trove of technologies and applications that have cyber applications. The National Labs are composed of some of the best and brightest scientific minds on the planet. The Labs are a reservoir of specialized skills and capabilities that can be tapped by the private sector. Aside from the investment and talent, the labs also have the best state-of-the art facilities for testing and evaluation of technologies. They also have a deep knowledge and accessible database of both classified and unclassified threats. The Science & Technology Directorate at DHS’s S & T helps fund Lab programs with a priority on “leap-ahead technologies” in the cyber arena.
The benefits of the Labs’ role include experienced capability in rapid proto-typing of new technologies ready for transitioning; showcasing, and commercialization. The Transition to Practice Program (TTP) at the DHS Science & Technology (S & T) Directorate is a good example of how Lab cyber technologies are being commercialized. A primary role for TTP is to identify through technology foraging at the DOE National Labs and Federally Funded research and Development Centers (FFRDC’s) and share their capabilities. Recently a DHS TTP event showcased eight new innovative cybersecurity technologies developed by the DOE National Labs.
How would R&D at the national labs differ from the innovation occurring in the private sector?
Research at the Labs has been correlated to security threats to critical infrastructures, especially of national security value. This includes years of innovative basic and applied research on sometimes large projects, including Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) to enterprise architectures and the nation’s critical infrastructures. Private sector research and development has been more geared to creating and selling cybersecurity products, particularly in malware and smart device products. Also, Lab R & D is open for others to commercialize their developmental products in the marketplace.
What is your vision of a perfect mix of public and private research and development efforts?
I cannot put an exact percentage on the mix but a strong working partnership is certainly necessary. Bridging private sector funding & research between government and the private sector will allow for a more focused and capable pipeline and reduce redundancy. This is especially important for protecting our critical infrastructure. Most of the cybersecurity critical infrastructure including; defense, oil and gas, electric power grids, healthcare, utilities, communications, transportation, banking & finance in owned by the private sector and regulated by the public sector. DHS has recognized the imperative for private sector input into cybersecurity requirements across these verticals and along with NIST is developing a strategy to ameliorate shortcomings. The formula for a mix of R & D should emanate from that strategy. What areas of cyber security are in need of the most research?
There are almost no areas that do not need more research. The “Internet of Things” consisting of hundreds of millions connected IP enabled smart devices is certainly a priority for researchers. Mobile management that involves securing many millions of BYOD devices is currently a challenge for information security both in government and in the private sector. Cloud computing has also taken center stage and securing cloud applications is an area of R & D concentration. There is always a need for better encryption, biometrics, smarter analytics, and automated network security in all categories of research. Also, cyber resilience is an area that must be further developed both in processes and technologies, because no matter what, breaches will happen.
Any thoughts on a tax credit for research and development?
Unfortunately, research and development programs across government have been decimated by Sequestration and Congressional budget issues over the last few years. As we transition fully into the digitized economy, we need to be able to compete and ensure our global innovation edge. Tax credits are a good avenue toward bringing more investment dollars for research and development in cyber, health, transportation, energy and other critical sectors. There is currently legislative language in Congressional bills for tax credits. On the state and local level this is already happening. Last year, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit for companies engaged in the development of “innovative and proprietary cybersecurity technology.”
Who should be the main customer of any research and development done at the national labs? The government or the private sector?
The private sector should be the main customer for technologies coming out of the Labs as the global cyber marketplace and especially the end users are predominantly commercial. There is, of course, the exception of National Lab contribution to military sensitive and classified national security programs. Private sector adaptation of new innovative technologies derived from the lab will proved substantial benefits in ensuring critical infrastructure. Funding projects in closer coordination with government and academia will allow for more focused and more capable technology development.
Follow Chuck Brooks on Twitter: @ChuckDBrooks or contact him on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chuckbrooks
Awesome interview, Chuck!
I think too many people generally underestimate the cybersecurity threat on a macro and micro level. Your interview is extremely helpful to those of us who are not steeped in such issues.
Just make sure you keep on neutering those cyber criminal before they neuter us. Good luck with all of your important work, Chuck.