Highwire’s Top 5 Keynotes from RSAC 2021: Building Resiliency Through Times of Uncertainty

Over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and on the heels of national catastrophes like SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and most recently, the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, the first (and hopefully last) fully virtual RSA Conference 2021 kicked off with no shortage of novel cybersecurity concerns to address. 

RSAC CEO Rohit Ghai started off the event with a frank conversation about the challenges that have plagued the cybersecurity community since we last saw one another in person over a year ago. From the Twitter hack in July 2020 and the first hacking-related death in September 2020, to the SolarWinds attack in December and the Facebook breach in early April 2021, we’ve been forced to deal with all of these issues remotely and disparately. And that’s a lot to take on. 

If there’s anything we know about cybersecurity, it’s that resiliency is built through hardship. Hence this year’s conference theme of ‘resilience’. 

Not only did these frank conversations remind us of the lessons learned from our cybersecurity shortcomings (showcased in the past year), but also highlighted how we’re addressing these concerns moving forward. The end goal is not perfect detection or 100% prevented/mitigated attacks, but to bolster our cyber resilience and better withstand future attacks. 

Below are the five keynotes (in no particular order) that we found to be the most timely and impactful. 

  1. The Coming AI Hackers – The first day of RSA was filled with talks covering everything from misinformation and election security to emerging threats, but this talk from Bruce Schneier, Security Technologist, Researcher, and Lecturer, Harvard Kennedy School was one of the day’s most enthralling – and equally terrifying. Can you imagine a world where AIs can be hackers? Where hacks of our social, economic, and political systems are discovered and exploited at computer scale. That world is now – it’s happening all around us. And to keep up with AI-backed and generated threats, our approach to ‘human speed patching’ must change.
  2. Cybersecurity as a National Imperative – On Tuesday, Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, explored the Biden Administration’s approach to cybersecurity, particularly on the heels of major cyber incidents like SolarWinds and Exchange. “Cybersecurity is a national security imperative,” Neuberger explained.  She noted that the primary takeaways from these attacks were 1) adversaries will look for any opening to attack, 2) partnerships between the public and private sector are increasingly vital for bolstering national defense, and 3) the government urgently needs to modernize its cybersecurity defenses (the last point comes in light of the Biden Administration’s recent Executive Order aimed at ‘Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity’). In making this last point, Neuberger emphasized, “We have to shift our mindset from incident response to prevention, and prioritize our investments to get ahead of threats.” 
  3. SolarWinds: What Really Happened? – If there’s one conversation that you definitely don’t want to miss from the week, it’s this one. On Wednesday, Forrester’s Laura Koetzle sat down with Sudhakar Ramakrishna, President and Chief Executive Officer at SolarWinds to unpack the entirety of the SolarWinds fiasco – from when FireEye announced it was the victim of a nation state attack to when then new SolarWinds CEO Ramakrishna got a call (on his birthday, no less) notifying him of the breach. Think of it as a SparkNotes-style overview of one of the most catastrophic cyberattacks of the 21st. 
  4. The Five Most Dangerous New Attack Techniques – Each year at RSAC, the SANS Institute provides the authoritative briefing on the top dangerous attack techniques that are new and in use today. On Thursday this year, Johannes Ullrich, Heather Mahalik, Katie Nickels, and Ed Skoudis debriefed the five methods, what’s coming next, and what organizations can do to prepare to prevent the next catastrophic cyber incident. In the session, these new attack techniques are outlined as 1) Undermining software integrity, 2) Improper session handling, 3) Crypto can be broken, 4) Using machine learning and AI against us by manipulating training data, 5) exfiltration and extortion (the future of ransomware).
  5. The Hugh Thompson Show with Steve Wozniak – In the final session of the event, Hugh Thompson, the Program Committee Chair, discussed the novelty of the selected theme of “resilience” — which was designated pre-pandemic. In this short session, Hugh chats with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak about this year’s theme and personal experiences with remote work, business resilience, and developing resilient products.

Overall, this year’s keynotes focused on the need for resilience – both in life and in cybersecurity. From nation-state attacks and large-scale breaches, to emerging attack vectors and threat actors, this past year gave us no shortage of new cybersecurity content to assess and analyze. While the large-scale shift to remote work overnight may have exacerbated some security shortcomings in the past year, it also enabled us to better understand, empathize, and celebrate with those in our community – our shared struggles, how we overcame unprecedented, unfathomable challenges, and ultimately, how as an industry we’ve set our sights on reaching new goals in 2021 and beyond. In that sense and many others, RSA’s theme of “resilience” couldn’t have been more timely. 

Thanks for following along with us – let us know on Twitter (@HighwirePR) which other keynotes and sessions were your favorite this year! Hope to see you all (in person) at RSAC 2022. 

Cyber & Tech Policy Roundup September 2020: The Pressure Builds 

Hello and welcome to the Highwire Cyber and Tech Policy news roundup!

September 2020 was a month where the pressure continued to build. Privacy legislation, antitrust movements, and cybersecurity news, including the first death by a ransomware attack, broke weekly if not daily. It was all just a preview for October when the news leading up to the election on November 3rd is going to hit a fever pitch. There’s no separating the Tech Industry from politics now. Hold on to your hats, folks. We’re in for a ride.


Antitrust action began to look even more inevitable this month. Republicans are still dedicated to investigating Tech Giants for biases, while Democrats continue to build their case for an overhaul of antitrust legislation. Like most things, the future all comes down to what happens on November 3rd. In fact, there is a rumor that the DOJ will try to us antitrust action as an October Surprise — so keep an eye out.

Internationally, no one is really sure what the Trump Administration is doing with TikTok and the U.S. relationship with WeChat could just be the beginning of a larger tech war with China.

Home, Sweet, Home

A Bipolar Tech War

Bipolarity is a term in international affairs to describe a world dominated by two powers (i.e. U.S. vs Russia or U.S. vs China). Multipolar and unipolar are other designations. 


This month, international privacy concerns cropped up for Facebook as the company may be charged with changing its data practices in Europe. Additionally, Amazon expanded privacy controls for the Alexa device… only to introduce a privacy nightmare in the making: the new Ring in-home drone security cam – to patrol your house while you’re away. As Big Tech tries to cut the head off one privacy concern, ten more sprout up.

Facebook Booked for Data Privacy Concerns in Ireland

Alexa’s Tightening Up Its Privacy

Ring Drone


Election Day is quickly approaching and the tigers and lions and bears are looking more like disinformation campaigns, nation-state attacks, and ransomware – Oh, my! Buried underneath the overwhelming election security news was another story that could change cybersecurity forever. Someone has died because of a ransomware attack—the first death by a cyber attack.

Election Day is Looking… Grim. And No One’s Surprised

Ransomware on the Rise 

Foreign Interference at Its Finest

This blog originally appeared as a newsletter. The goal of this newsletter is to expand expertise on the state of affairs and policies that affect the bottom line for the Tech Industry. If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, please email claire@highwirepr.com

This blog was written by Claire Teitelman, Ali Wilson, and Jill Niedermeyer.

A Conversation with Cyber Threat Alliance’s Michael Daniel on Election Security

Conspiracy Theories, Domestic Threats and Clear Communication: The Cybersecurity Industry’s Role in the November 3rd Election  

Uncertainty and anxiety ratchet up each day closer we get to the November 3rd Election. Frenzied stories about protecting votes, conspiracy theories, the general security of our elections and the health of democracy dominate the news cycle. The ghost of Russian hacking in 2016 lordes over everything.  

This is the first presidential election since cybersecurity’s effect on elections became a mainstream concern. Michael Daniel is the President and CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance (CTA) and former Special Assistant to President Obama and Cybersecurity Coordinator on the National Security Council Staff. I spoke with him about the role of the cybersecurity industry in this election and the future of election security. 

The big takeaway: long-term planning and communication, not technology, are key to protecting the democratic process. 

Claire Teitelman (CT): How should the cybersecurity industry approach protecting elections? 

Michael Daniel (MD): One issue is that the industry tends to focus on election security in the few months leading up to the election and not at other times. The truth is that state and local election officials have to work on this stuff all the time and changes and improvements usually have to happen during the downtimes in the off cycle. So, at this point, a lot of things are already locked into place. 

That’s one of the things that really annoys them [state and local officials] is when election security nerds show up the September before the election and say “you should do all this stuff.” Great. If you told me that two years ago, I could have actually done something with it. I think just being mindful of the fact that it’s about managing risk for the long term and over multiple election cycles would pay significant dividends. 

CT: You mentioned in the Highwire Election Security panel that this long-term thinking also needs to be applied to how we fund federal cybersecurity. Can you explain a bit more about that?

MD: Most companies think about their cybersecurity as an ongoing investment. You don’t just buy the widget and plug it into your network and then you’re good and done. It doesn’t work that way.  Why should we expect that cybersecurity for our electoral infrastructure to be any different?

The federal government has an interest in ensuring an increased level of cybersecurity for the entire electoral infrastructure. Many of the threats that we face are nation-state threats, and that’s the federal government’s responsibility to combat. But we also want to maintain our federalist structure. We want state and local governments to maintain control over the electoral process. That’s really key.

The federal government should be providing funding and technical support to state and local governments over time, in a sustained manner — where the funding is predictable — and maintained over several years. That’s going to look a lot more like infrastructure funding for roads, or other kinds of grant programs, where the state has to put up a certain percentage and the federal government then kicks in another percentage.

State and local governments should be able to plan for their own election cycles over time. It would be far more effective for improving security to have steady funding sources than these bursts of cash.

CT: Given enough lead time and funding, what are the biggest election security issues the industry can help fix?

MD: What you’re trying to do is reduce the risk across the entire electoral process, from registering voters, to generating the poll books, to having people cast their ballots, ensuring that the ballots are counted properly, and that then they are reported properly. It’s the whole life cycle, not just voting machines, that needs to be protected. From a state and local election officials perspective, you want to focus on the things that will reduce the risk of something bad happening to those most vulnerable parts of the process, particularly at scale. That’s often not the voting machines; it’s often the voter registration databases. The question then becomes, how do I make sure I maintain the integrity of those voter registration databases? And then, how do I actually ensure that I can rely on those results? Really, that’s about both processes and technology. 

At this point, a few weeks before an election, the technical solutions already have to be in place. There’s not a lot more that we can do on the technical front because those systems have to be locked down. The process is where we should focus now. 

CT: For the Election on November 3rd, if it’s too late for technical solutions, what should be the role of the cybersecurity industry? 

MD: Similar to our mission at Cyber Threat Alliance of collaborating, sharing threat intel for the greater good, it’s important for the private and public sector to come together to address this challenge. So between now and Election Day, the cybersecurity industry needs to be ready to support state and local officials with incident response and respond quickly if something seems to be going wrong. At CTA, we have an election security working group focused on how we maintain the connections between all the stakeholders so that if something appears to be going wrong, we can respond very quickly. We can help identify whether there’s an actual threat or if it’s just business as usual.

We also need to set clear expectations. There are crazy things, abnormalities, that happen in every election. There are always random technical glitches that are just that,  glitches. Those things happen and have always happened. And they will happen again. 

We need to set expectations that no election ever runs perfectly smoothly, and that the existence of those anomalies and those glitches does not indicate that somebody has fundamentally messed with the electoral process, nor does it undermine the overall result. That’s just how a big election process is. It’s a little bit messy, particularly around the edges.

CT: Setting expectations sounds like it’s a communication, not technical, goal. How much of cybersecurity at this point is communication?

MD: I used to joke that my title in the White House should have been in Cybersecurity Calibrator because half the time I was running around saying, “No, you really should pay attention to this, this threat is real.” And the other half I spent running around going, “Okay, let’s take a step back from the edge, please stop panicking. The world is not about to end; let’s breathe.”

It’s about being very judicious in talking about how these threats can manifest and being very sober about how we talk about the threat and not overselling it.  Fundamentally, our electoral infrastructure is very robust. It’s very distributed. It’s got a lot of people paying attention to it. There’s a lot more focus on the cyber aspects this time around. There’s more focus on the disinformation aspects, too. 

The communication has to be about being very transparent about the process. If we had an incident, here’s what we’re going to do. If there’s an incident actually occurring, here are the steps we are taking to investigate it and to address it. And then you come out, and you actually tell people what you found. I think if you do that, then you could help manage some of the inevitable spin, conspiracy theories and other things that are going to happen.

CT: What are the dangers of misinformation and conspiracy theories this election?

MD: Conspiracy theory nerds are going to have a field day no matter what happens. You’re not worried about them. You’re worried about the general public. What you want is to be able to communicate that you have a process. Even if you don’t know what’s going on right now, you have a process for figuring that out, you’re going to follow that process, you’re going to be transparent about that process, there’s going to be oversight of that process, and that people can trust the results of that investigation. That’s really how you help maintain people’s confidence in the system. 

CT: What are the 2020 election interference threats we aren’t talking enough about?

MD: I think domestic interference is an under-appreciated problem. One of the things that I’ve discussed off and on with some people after what we went through in the last election is what domestic groups are going to learn from the Russian approach. We can’t be blind to the fact that there are groups within the United States that have axes to grind and would love to sow chaos and discord.

That becomes much more of a law enforcement issue. The First Amendment protects a lot of what they say, but if you cross the line into trying to have a disruption effect on the electoral process, that’s criminal activity. We should respond to those actions like we would other criminal activity, and treat them as such. 

Overall, it’s something we ought to be cognizant of — that the source of misinformation or disinformation activity might be domestic. It might not all be international. 

Most of all, again, the cybersecurity industry should be working and clearly communicating with private and public stakeholders and the general public. This collaboration, mutual trust and respect is vital if we want to protect our votes in 2020. This election should just be the beginning of our consistent investment of time and money into protecting and strengthening democracy. 

To listen to more of Michael’s views on election security, watch On the Record: Election Security and Protecting the Vote.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Cyber Media with SDxCentral’s Jessica Hardcastle

I recently connected with tech reporter extraordinaire (and one of my personal favorite people to work with), Jessica Hardcastle, the managing editor of SDxCentral covering next-generation data centers, security, and software-defined storage. We chatted about what she’s been working on during COVID-19 and how the pandemic has shaped her coverage.

See below for a Q&A breakdown of our conversation (edited for clarity and conciseness):

Jill: What cybersecurity stories have you been working on outside of COVID-19-centered articles?

Jessica: I’ve been working on the usual trend pieces, and what’s next on the threat landscape. I also think between now and November election security is obviously going to be a big one.

Jill: How are you seeing COVID-10 shape the cyber media landscape?

Jessica: I think it’s shaping the media landscape in many of the same ways that it’s shaping the cybersecurity landscape overall: It’s basically expanding everything. The threat landscape is bigger (more threats and a larger attack surface) now that people are working from home, so that definitely expands the focus area of our coverage. Plus, in addition to COVID-19, there’s still all the usual stuff — product releases, non-COVID-related threats, reports, and trends — so as media we’re trying to balance it all. It’s a lot more work for us, but we realize it’s also a lot more work for the defenders.

Jill: How are you staying sane through the increased stress and pressures during COVID?

Jessica: Honestly, not very well. It’s a struggle every day and now that fully-remote first grade for my twins has started, it’s even harder. I think long walks and getting outside has really helped me over the last few months, but now the Santa Cruz fires [where Jessica is based] have ruined that one, too. Damn you, 2020!

Jill: On a hopefully more positive note, which of your recent articles are you most proud of?

Jessica: I’m proud of this election security story [around disinformation] and also this one [about how defenders have responded to increased cyber threats caused by the pandemic], which I think – or at least I hope – shows some of the human side of everything going on right now.

Jill: Finally — a silly one — what’s one fun fact about yourself?

Jessica: I can sing every word to every Billy Joel song ever written.

It’s clear from our conversation that for  PR and media, COVID-19 has increased the stress and pressure on top of traditional announcements and news of the day. It’s a lot. 

Shortly after our quick Q&A, Jessica shared this article from the New Yorker with me about all of the things we’ll do when the pandemic is ‘over.’ It popped into my inbox at the end of a particularly long day, breaking a smile into my tired eyes and driving home the point: We’re all in this together, and we could all damn well use a laugh. I’m grateful to work with people like Jessica who embrace this outlook. 

One day soon, we’ll all be back singing karaoke (maybe to a Billy Joel song?), but until then, those of us in PR need to think about how we can support our journalist buddies with thoughtful pitches and connecting them with resources who can comment on the most influential and critical topics of the time.

Like this Q&A? Read some of our other reporter interviews with Dark Reading’s Kelly Jackson Higgins and freelancer Alyssa Newcomb on the Highwire blog.

The Future of Work: The Biggest Threats to a New 21st Century Work Life

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of disruptions in the world of tech industry events – and next week’s now virtual Black Hat is no exception. In response, businesses are getting creative and rethinking their approaches to the usual networking, presentations and panels we see at in-person conferences. This week, Highwire’s Security Practice is hosting a series of virtual panels titled “On The Record: Cyber Edition” featuring a lineup of executives from top clients to highlight some of the key topics we’ll see at this year’s virtual Black Hat.

Wednesday’s panel, “The Future of Work: The Biggest Threats to a New 21st Century Work Life,” was moderated by Sam Whitmore, founder of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey, and featured expert panelists from Cybereason, Code42, One Identity, and Akamai.  

In attendance were Samantha Schwartz (@SamanthaSchann) from CIO Dive, Jennifer Schlesinger (@jennyanne211) from CNBC, Tony Bradley (@RealTonyBradley) from Forbes/TechSpective, Arielle Waldman (@ariellewaldman) from TechTarget, Alyssa Newcomb (@AlyssaNewcomb) from NBC/Today Show, Shaun Nichols (@shaundnichols) from The Register, Teri Robinson (@TeriRnNY) from SC Magazine, Sue Poremba (@sueporemba) from Security Boulevard, and Mark Cox (@Mark_ChannelGuy) from ChannelBuzz. 

Whitmore kicked off the panel with a discussion around how COVID-19 has changed the panelists’ view on the future of work. There was a shared sentiment around how their companies acted swiftly to get employees working from home, and there was complete unanimity that a hybrid workforce is “the new normal.” 

Although digital transformation was already well on its way to changing the way we work, panelists agreed that COVID-19 really accelerated the timeline. 

“Y2K was supposed to be the year everything changed, but it seems like the change happened 20 years later,” said Maha Pula, VP of Solutions Engineering at Akamai. “We were just redesigning workspaces to be more open and shared, and then COVID-19 came and changed the paradigm.”

Not only has our work environment changed, but the attack surface as well. The way Mor Levi, VP of Global Security Services at Cybereason puts it, there are many threats and risks for the privacy of employees – everything from conference calls to speakers and webcams. Without the benefits of a secure office infrastructure, employees open themselves up to a whole new host of privacy and security risks. 

“What worked for companies [before] are no longer relevant,” said Levi. “VPN and all those things must shift to zero trust, SaaS and cloud — all those areas that are more secure, robust and available.”

Jadee Hanson, CISO and CIO at Code42, went on to add that there are other security challenges in the current landscape, such as not having an office network, which means companies need to shift their strategy to focus more on the endpoint. She stressed the need for CISOs to weigh that cost and that they need adequate funding to be able to protect the company. 

In addition to network security, another large threat to the quickly changing workforce is overall security awareness, according to Dan Conrad, field strategist at One Identity. More people working from home means employees are using devices that may have access to the corporate network, and activities like streaming videos and accessing potentially malicious sites (or worse — downloading malware) puts them at serious risk. A point remains — employees don’t know what they don’t know. 

“We can’t expect users to understand [security] training unless they understand the dangers of working from home,” said Conrad. “Realizing when you authenticate a VPN you have extended the company network to your home that may be riddled with viruses — if [they] are not aware, you can’t expect a lot out of them.”

Hanson agreed, adding that compliance is not a checked box, it’s a cultural shift. 

“[With COVID-19], we have focused a bit more on those guiding principles — what to do when you’re home, how to set up your home router or network,” said Hanson. “I think of security awareness as the daily corrections that happen throughout the day.” 

While there’s no denying that the world is moving beyond the idea of a “new normal” and well into a forever-changed future of work, there is a silver lining. Some of our experts noted that as a result of the pandemic, security roadmaps have been accelerated and this is good news for CISOs and CIOs who now have a front row seat at the table to innovate around tools, smart processes, and models like zero trust. 

Overall, the panelists provided thoughtful insights into the threat landscape and the opportunities the new future of work presents for security teams. You can watch the full panel here and above. 

Tech Titans Zoom in to Washington’s Antitrust Hearing

antitrust hearing

Yesterday, for the first time, top executives from Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon teleconferenced into the Capitol for an antitrust hearing in front of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust.  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook sat (virtually because of COVID-19 fears) for questioning from Democrats and Republicans. 

The Democratic line of questioning, headed by Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI), zeroed in on the anti-competitive and monopolistic nature of the power amassed by the four tech titans. Rep. Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Jayapal (D-WA), who is shaping up to be a fierce questioner in hearings, led questions around Facebook’s gobbling up of would-be competitors, Apple’s gatekeeping at the App Store, Amazon’s reported stealing competitor 3-party information and Google’s devaluing of competitors on its platforms.  

Republicans went with a line of questioning that started with “big is not necessarily bad” and then veered off into concerns over censorship of conservative views. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as well as others, questioned particularly Google’s Pichai on the company’s relationship with China, contrasting that with event’s like Google dropping out of Project Maven, a contract with the American military, and the company’s BLM stance. In fact Pichai, the only non-American testifying, was questioned the most over the length of the hearings. 

What now? It’s safe to say that what happens next depends on how the election in November goes. If Democrats win either the Senate or Presidency or both (and keep a hold of the House), Chairman Cicilline and Rep. Nadler made it clear that they believe new antitrust laws need to be written to curtail the power of the tech industry, likening the men before them to Rockefeller and Carnegie

If Republicans hold on to the power they now enjoy, antitrust regulation is less likely, but companies may be singled out and punished for perceived First Amendment violations. However, Republicans would have to win the House on top of everything in November for congressional action to be a real threat. 

Election Security and Protecting the Vote

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of disruptions in the world of tech industry events – and next week’s now virtual Black Hat is no exception. In response, businesses are getting creative and rethinking their approaches to the usual networking, presentations and panels we see at in-person conferences. This week, Highwire’s Security Practice is hosting a series of virtual panels titled “On The Record: Cyber Edition” featuring a lineup of executives from top clients to highlight some of the key topics we’ll see at this year’s virtual Black Hat.

Might I just say, if you missed Tuesday’s expert panel on “Election Security and Protecting the Vote!” – you missed out. If you caught the last post on the Highwire blog, you’ll know that this week, Highwire’s Security Practice hosted a series of virtual panels titled “On The Record: Cyber Event Series” – featuring a stellar lineup of industry thought leaders and executives from our cyber practice clients. We wanted to gather the best in the business together to share their thoughts on top industry news and trends as we gear up for one of the top cyber (virtual) events of the year, Black Hat. In other words, with Black Hat coming up, presidential elections this fall, and COVID-19 continuing, cyber season is in full swing – and Tuesday’s blockbuster panel did not disappoint. 

Joined by cybersecurity experts Betsy Cooper, Policy Director at the Aspen Institute; Maggie MacAlpine, election security specialist and Co-founder of the DEF CON Voting Machine Hacking Village; Mick Baccio, Splunk Security Advisor and former CISO at Pete for America; Michael Daniel, Cyber Threat Alliance President; and Bill Harrod, MobileIron Federal CTO, the conversation explored everything from doomsday election day scenarios, to the spread of disinformation via social media channels, to the readiness of mobile voting as a secure voting channel (spoiler: it’s not). 

The panelists were also joined by journalists like Joe Marks (@Joseph_Marks_) from The Washington Post, Frank Bajak (@fbajak) from Associated Press, Maggie Miller (@magmill95) from The Hill, Kevin Collier (@kevincollier) from NBC, Jeff Elder (@JeffElder) from Business Insider, Betsy Neus (@e_neus) from FedTech, and Mark Albert (@malbertnews) from Hearst TV. 

The conversation kicked off with a deep dive into the largest security threats we’ll face leading up to and on Election Day. “The greatest threat that we face is that Americans will not end up trusting the results,” CTA’s Michael Daniel shared. “That is, undermining the confidence and integrity of the election, and however that occurs, that’s the threat we’re trying to mitigate.”

Election security expert Maggie MacAlpine shared that her biggest fear is that, “The electorate may not be prepared for how long it’ll actually take to count the results. We’re shifting to a massive increase in mail-in voting — and I think quite rightfully so — but it is a chronically underfunded problem. We’ve already had a primary in California and a primary in New York that took weeks to get all of the ballots in and to put out an official result. I’m not sure how many Americans are plugged in enough to understand yet that there might not be results on election night – and there may be states that don’t have results for weeks.”

The Aspen Institute’s Betsy Cooper, shared a similar concern of a different stripe, “We’ve talked a lot about the electorate’s perception of uncertainty. I’m worried about actual ballot count uncertainty. I’m worried about the case, where states leveraging electronic voting records and the actual ballot counts don’t add up.”

So what can the federal government do to prevent or prepare for an election day doomsday scenario? “You have to have a contingency plan for all the things. And you have a contingency plan for that contingency plan. And come November, there’s going to be a gap of time where we don’t really know who won the election,” shared Splunk’s Mick Baccio. “Politics are partisan – and they should be – but security is apolitical. It’s hard to secure elections without introducing politics to it. And I think all of us have found that roadblock more often than not.”

“The education piece is where the government needs to be in front right now,” explained MobileIron’s Bill Harrod. “To say this is what we’re doing, this is how we’re going to make sure that we have strong audit trails and that your vote can count.”

From there, the panelists explored the recent Twitter hack and the role social media will play in disseminating disinformation and misinformation come Election Day — or election week. They discussed the ongoing challenges of determining whether a tweet or a post is misleading but opinionated in nature, therefore making it a violation of an individual’s first amendment right to take it down — an ongoing conversation surrounding the president’s Twitter habits in particular. 

The panelists also articulated the need for widespread understanding and patience from the electorate and the media as ballots take longer than normal to tally this year — as they should, if state and local governments work together to ensure that mail-in voting counts are as accurate as possible. 

The main takeaways? Election security as a mainstream conversation is a positive shift. Universally mobile voting is a terrible idea (at least at this point in time). Mail-in voting will be the most secure channel for voting come November, and that Americans will need to be patient as vote tallying takes longer than normal this year. 

The bottom line: “The likelihood is the highest it’s ever been that we will not know the results election night or the morning after,” said Betsy Cooper. “As a result of that, if we want to prepare people, the biggest thing we can do is say this election night will not… feel the same as election nights have before.” 

In case you’re looking for a full recap of the conversation, you can check out the full panel on YouTube here, or watch the video above. 

Crisis and the Cloud: New Security Challenges of Accelerated Adoption

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of disruptions in the world of tech industry events – and next week’s now virtual Black Hat is no exception. In response, businesses are getting creative and rethinking their approaches to the usual networking, presentations and panels we see at in-person conferences. This week, Highwire’s Security Practice is hosting a series of virtual panels titled “On The Record: Cyber Edition” featuring a lineup of executives from top clients to highlight some of the key topics we’ll see at this year’s virtual Black Hat.

Monday’s panel, “Crisis and the Cloud: New Security Challenges of Accelerated Adoption,” was moderated by David Spark, producer of the CISO Series, and featured an all-female lineup of executives from Intel, Rubrik, Forcepoint, and vArmour, focusing on the acceleration of cloud adoption driven by the coronavirus pandemic, cloud security issues resulting from rapid deployment, and how to best address cloud risk.  

In attendance were Don Clark (@donal888) from the New York Times, Jessica Hardcastle (@JessicaHrdcstle) from SDxCentral, Tony Bradley (@RealTonyBradley) from Forbes and Techspective, Fahmida Rashid (@FYRashid) from Decipher and Bree Fowler (@BreeJFowler) from Consumer Reports.  

Spark kicked off the panel by pointing out that a significant cloud transformation has taken place over the past few months, largely driven by the pandemic, and asked the panelists what they are doing differently now compared to what they were at the beginning of this year.

“It was actually a really smooth transition to have folks completely work from home – we’re already about 99% SaaS and cloud,” said Rinki Sethi, CISO at Rubrik. “I think the biggest change for us was our customer base. Many of our customers we help with cloud data management, backup and recovery and many of them weren’t using cloud. They were fully in their data centers and we were helping them manage backup and recovery there, and now they wanted to shift to become hybrid to have some other means of making sure they have their data hosted somewhere else because they can’t send folks easily to the data center. There was a drastic change.”

Cloud migration acceleration was seen by all the panelists, as was the concern for how security would be able to quickly translate to this remote, cloud-based world. Many of the traditional CISO best practices simply did not match the times and crisis.

“We’re seeing 3-5 years of business transformation happen in months,” said Rebecca Weekly, Sr. Director of Cloud Business Strategy at Intel. “Normally, when a company looks to a cloud strategy for disaster recovery or business continuity, they want to do a detailed risk assessment of their entire security process – their assets, vulnerabilities that they might be facing, the likelihood of exploitations, anything they might want to do around expected loss analysis. Usually this is a very detailed, well-thought-through, CIO-led process, and we have not necessarily seen such a detailed process coming across because this is being viewed as a disaster.”

This sentiment was reflected by some of the other panelists as well, who agreed that business transformation has accelerated significantly, and that while CISOs may not have the time and flexibility for their usual risk assessments, the overall transition to cloud presents a greater opportunity than risk. CISOs are now looking at new ways to combat risk, like Forcepoint’s human-centric cybersecurity approach that looks past the traditional network security philosophy and concentrates on the behavior of human and digital identities to protect against theft of critical data.

“For the first time in modern business history, CISOs do not have the comfort level of their traditional security program and controls because the network has dramatically changed,” said Myrna Soto, Chief Strategy and Trust Officer at Forcepoint. “Not only have companies that were just considering or slowly moving towards digital transformation been forced to jump in, but clients that were already adopting are beginning to look at different capabilities, like cloud-secured gateways, insider threats and understanding behavioral analytics. 

“Our network is our kitchen counter, our home office – we’re dealing with consumer-grade networks, so the need to really look at data protection and user protection at a very, very granular level is one of the things that we’re seeing our customers talk to us about,” Myrna concluded.

When asked about their plans for their future, the panelists seemed hopeful, but remained conservative in their strategies for looking ahead. 

“We hoped that it would be short term, but we actually planned for long term.” Kate Kuehn, SVP Alliances at vArmour sees customers taking security concerns outside their offices more seriously. “We’re seeing customers say ‘ok, we need to continue to accelerate our hybrid model, to accelerate our cloud, move to SaaS, because we may not be full force back in the office until next year sometime.’ What does that mean? We’re seeing a shift into more focus on the interdependencies of infrastructure and supply chain, the dependencies between energy companies and healthcare companies, financial services. We’re seeing companies start to plan for the long term, that we could be trenched in for another year or two before they go back.”

Overall, the panelists provided thoughtful insights into the current state of accelerated cloud adoption and offered their advice for CISOs looking to strengthen their security infrastructure. You can watch the full panel here and below.

Reaching Your Audience at the First-Ever Virtual Black Hat

Black Hat is going fully virtual this year, which means attendees will miss out on the late night networking at parties and hallway conversations on the latest major research and industry rumors (but maybe not the swarm of grasshoppers that took over Vegas last year). With companies no longer able to tap into the in-person networking opportunities with potential customers and media, the need to get creative to engage with your core audience has never been more important.

Our Highwire #CyberSquad dug into opportunities that will still allow security companies to make a splash through sponsored media interviews, allowing organizations to reach their key audiences and buyers without braving the desert heat in August.

Here are a handful of sponsored opportunities at  Black Hat 2020 to build connections and elevate your thought leadership with your target audience:

  • Dark Reading is back with its video “News Desk.” Without filming in person, Dark Reading is still providing vendors the opportunity to schedule a 10-minute video interview segment, (recorded in the comfort of your own home)to detail their company news, research and key industry trends. The interview is then edited into a 2-5 minute video clip for further promotion on Dark Reading. The cost to support this engagement ranges from $8-14,500 depending on your desired sponsorship package.
  • Security Weekly is hosting virtual podcasts as part of an event they’re calling “Hacker Summer Camp 2020” that will take place the week of Black Hat (Aug. 3 – Aug. 6). Taking advantage of this new remote format, Security Weekly is live-streaming these podcast interviews over the course of four full days. Morning interviews are $2,500 (10-15 minutes) and the longer evening interviews (30-45 minutes) are $4-6,000 depending on the day of the week.
  • The Security Ledger podcast is offering sponsors a dedicated 10-15 minute interview segment as well as sponsor recognition at introduction, midway and conclusion of the Black Hat episode of the podcast. This branding opportunity is $3,000 and includes: Exclusive sponsorship of show-opener podcast the week of BlackHat and brand promotion on Security Ledger’s site. Their traditional sponsored opportunities are also still available and can be timed around the conference (i.e. one week before or after).
  • ITSP Magazine is currently offering sponsored podcasts during Black Hat, which will connect listeners with organizers and keynote speakers. This sponsored option costs around $500.
  • Security Guy TV is creating 10-minute video and podcast interviews with security professionals about any desired topic, product, service or security solution. The interview will play live during the Black Hat conference and will be promoted on LinkedIn to their 29,000 followers, as well as other social media platforms for $150 per interview. Interviews can be booked here.

Despite not being able to network in person with key publications and reporters at the show, these virtual sponsored opportunities can help your business reach a core audience of security professionals and decision makers, and provide another layer of connecting during this year’s conference. 

Are you a security company interested in boosting your thought leadership at the conference? If you’re interested in discussing one of the sponsored media opportunities listed above, or discussing your overarching Black Hat strategy, please reach out to security@highwirepr.com

Are you a publication offering an opportunity that we left out? We’re sorry we missed you! Reach out to jillian@highwirepr.com and we’ll get you added to our list. 

Man Recording Image credit: Kati at xilophotography.com

Privacy During COVID-19

In the past four months, we’ve had to adjust the way we interact and how we think about our health and well-being. This shift has drastically changed our vision of the future (what will life look like post-COVID? How much will it change?) and it has many wondering how technology will make a difference in this fight.

With the government and big tech companies rapidly coming up with new solutions to help flatten the curve, the unflattering spotlight is again focused on the privacy and security concerns surrounding new technologies. It seems that with every new solution comes another privacy infringement.

But in these scary times, when lives are at risk every day, do people really care about the increase in surveillance technology? What are we willing to give up to be safer? What will we sacrifice for a return to normalcy?

Where the Privacy Battle Began 

This isn’t the first time a major event has shifted our view on privacy and surveillance. It’s not even the first time this century. September 11th was the first major challenge and has defined the struggle between privacy and “safety” since. As the nation worked to implement a quick response to the attack, many ignored their fear of mass surveillance to help the nation rebound.

Post 9/11, privacy has dominated the conversation as the amount of surveillance made possible by new technology, like social media, smartphones and more, increases. As we moved into a new era of “surveillance capitalism,” the more people — from the infosec community to privacy and human rights advocates — began to shine a brighter light on what was really happening behind closed doors. They  pushed for the implementation of GDPR in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act. While these laws are far from perfect, they are a start to regulating an industry that has seen very few boundaries set by legislation.  

Yet, despite the growing concerns around surveillance from Facebook and other Big Tech companies, 2.6 billion people still used Facebook in the first quarter of 2020. Facebook’s reputation may have taken a hit in the small — but growing —  circles that are worried about privacy, but for the wider population the services social media and internet-based technology offers seems worth the tradeoff.  And this was before a global pandemic really hit.

The New Era of COVID-19 Privacy

As people began to quickly adapt to life during COVID, so did Big Tech. With everyone hunkered down at home, our computers and internet connections became the only ways we could  interact with people outside our homes. Never before has being connected been so important. 

Enter Zoom, a video conferencing platform that blew up at the beginning of the pandemic. From virtual happy hours to birthdays to almost any event plus daily meetings, “Zoom” became a synonym for all video conferencing. Just as we were getting comfortable with Zoom, issues started popping up. From Zoom Bombing to the lack of end-to-end encryption that led to credential stuffing attacks. Then it came out that Zoom was allegedly sharing personal data with Facebook. Suddenly Zoom’s was in a privacy crisis.

Zoom almost immediately hired Alex Stamos, former CSO of Facebook, as a security advisor to help with its security image. It also acquired Keybase, an end-to-end encryption company.  Thanks to quick action during a crisis, the seas quieted down for a while. But another storm seems to already be brewing — around who gets end-to-end-encryption and how much it costs. 

Just as the Zoom headlines started to dwindle, another privacy issue took its place. Apple and Google released a contact tracing app. As soon as the partnership was announced, there were vocal concerns about another Silicon Valley scheme to monitor and possibly monetize the data of our daily lives. When faced with the option of using technology for contract tracing, many European governments are tied into knots about how the information and data collected is stored (centralized v decentralized). They aren’t too keen on private California companies being in control of citizen data and dictating policy decisions

But this conversation goes much further than Google and Apple. With governments running contact tracing apps, many fear that things could get dangerous quickly. What would happen if governments were to start releasing people’s COVID status, as has happened in Cook County, IL? Will governments use this data for other purposes? Are government networks secure enough to prevent a hacker getting a hold of  all our sensitive health and personal data?

COVID-19 has brought the privacy debate to the forefront again. The loudest voices right now may be privacy advocates, but what does the general public think? Let’s look at the numbers.  Zoom still has 300M daily meeting participants. In terms of contact tracing, a recent study by Axios/Ipsos found that the majority of Americans are likely to cooperate with contact tracing as long as it doesn’t involve handing over their cell phone location. People seem  at the very least too distracted with just the basics of living their lives to really pay close attention.The silent majority just wants its life back.

As contact tracing and other tech solutions are developed,  privacy concerns will only grow. However, it’s likely that the public won’t know the full extent of what we’ve compromised until COVID-19 is in the rear view. It’s worth noting that it was only in the years after 9/11 that the realities of government surveillance finally began to turn public opinion. It’s wise for companies now to take privacy seriously and build protections into the foundations of their tools, if they don’t want to see heavy backlash in the future. Crises — and the forgiveness we give during them —  don’t last forever.