August 22, 2012    /    by

GFIRST Conference Atlanta 2012

As in previous years, the GFIRST conference in being held during the same week as the MS-ISAC Annual Meeting and the InfraGard annual meetings. This allows a diverse group of experts from around the country to attend multiple events during one trip.

According to the event website, GFIRST is described like this:

“The Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (GFIRST) is a group of technical and tactical practitioners from incident response and security response teams responsible for securing government information technology systems and providing private sector support. GFIRST members work together to understand and handle computer security incidents and to encourage proactive and preventative security practices across government agencies. GFIRST promotes cooperation among the full range of Federal, State and local agencies, including defense, civilian, intelligence, and law enforcement.”

As in previous years, the GFIRST conference in being held during the same week as the MS-ISAC Annual Meeting and national InfraGard meetings. This allows a diverse group of experts from around the country to attend multiple events during one trip and add maximum value to travel.

The opening plenary session speakers were Art Coviello, Executive Chairman at RSA, Allan Paller,  Director of Research at the SANS Institute, and Tony Sager, former head of NSA’s IA program, and now with SANS. 

I won’t go through point by point what was said morning, but here were some themes, first from Art Coviello:

-          We need more risk-based, intelligence-based cybersecurity.

-          Contextual information sharing is key.

-          There is a big perception versus reality gap regarding breaches.

-          Impediments to progress include:

  • Budget shortfalls
  • Staff shortages
  • Congressional inaction
  • Insufficient cyber staff that are proficient

-          The organizational maturity levels for cybersecurity move from control to compliance to measuring IT risk to measuring business risk

-          Art Coviello called for the President to act now with an executive order, Congress to pass the Rogers - Ruppersberger bill, a bi-partisan commission that could discuss what’s really happening behind closed doors.

  Allan Paller discussed the shifts that are taking place in cybersecurity around the world within the past 60 days. A new focus is on fixing known problems and especially the top twenty security controls.

He suggested that the new security heroes were teams and not Lone Rangers. He said management wants to know the answer to three questions:

1)      What will it take to adequately secure our systems?

2)      How much security is enough?

3)      Whom can I trust to give me the right answers?

Paller suggested that “offense informs defense” – meaning that those who actually see and understand how we are being attacked can better defend in the future. He also said that we have the tools and the dollars, but we primarily need leadership.

There has been a 400% increase in significant cyber attacks in the past 90 days. DHS sees a new attack every 90 seconds.

Tony Sager described his prestigious career at NSA and offered some thoughts on our "information management" problems moving forward. He said we must focus on a small number of critical activities that will make the biggest difference. He also discussed the 80/20 rule and the benefits of using the Pareto Principle in cyberdefense, operations and project planning.

Are you at GFRIST? Any thoughts to share?