Fixing Cybersecurity is Our 21st Century Moonshot. Here’s What It Will Take.

As large-scale, high-profile data breaches continue to make headlines, we see organizations step up their response by creating policies, plans and fixes to ward off the next attack. The level of sophistication of these efforts and their efficacy are, of course, variable. The cybersecurity health of individual companies, government agencies and other institutions is only as good as the knowledge and financial resources available to each. As a result, we find ourselves relying on a patchwork of entities working furiously to patch our way out of cyber risk. It doesn’t work.

When Pete Chronis, Chief Information Security Officer for Turner Broadcasting, joined an episode of the Cyber Exchange podcast with Baker Donelson’s Justin Daniels, he offered a vision of a more collaborative, more innovative and safer technology ecosystem. He also provided a framework for how we can get there.

A self-described history buff and author of the book The Cyber Conundrum: How Do We Fix Cybersecurity?, Chronis contends that we need a “moonshot,” a large-scale achievement to break through the security and privacy challenges we face today. He draws parallels to our feats in landing humans on the moon, eradicating polio and defeating the Axis powers in World War II – extracting from that history the elements needed to create our cybersecurity moonshot. Here is what history teaches us:

  • We must broaden our intellectual horizons. As Pete says, “We can’t look at tomorrow through the lens of today.” We need to think beyond where we are, and what we have available, right now. That means reimagining what’s possible.
  • We must build a broad coalition. To date, the tech community has shouldered the burden of cybersecurity. We need to get everyone on board – from policymakers and consumers to corporate leaders.
  • We must take a comprehensive approach. With millions, or even billions, of users interacting with countless technologies and platforms, cybersecurity risk is becoming increasingly complex. We need solutions that reach every corner of the tech ecosystem and beyond to everyday users. There must be a national call to action for the development of intuitive user-based security, incentives for those who invest in cybersecurity, and penalties for those who do not.
  • We must have enlightened leadership. We need a vanguard to create a movement, supported by activists and galvanized around cybersecurity as a national security issue.
  • We must have transformational innovation. Our cybersecurity moonshot will likely depend on technologies that have yet to be developed. We should not look to the tools we have today to solve the problem.

A moonshot requires all of those pieces to be successful. We cannot wait for those pieces to assemble themselves. Nor can we patch, program or legislate our way to safer technology. The time to move forward is now. We must take our lessons from history and build our new moonshot before we are confronted with a cybersecurity “Pearl Harbor.”

For an expanded look at this discussion, visit the Cyber Exchange podcast episode, “Fixing Cybersecurity.”

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