As RepMan readers may recall, I attended an amazing conference last week focused on cyber security, and hosted by the Cyber Security Institute at West Point.
The summit featured many leaders from the public and private sectors, government, academia and the military.
Since I discussed the macro goals of the gathering last week, I thought I’d share the single best anecdote of the 15-hour event.
Secretary of Homeland Safety, Jeh Johnson, delivered a keynote speech in which he re-emphasized a point made by earlier speakers. To wit, the sheer ignorance of most Americans to their vulnerability to cyber attacks.
To illustrate his point, Johnson shared a recent ploy the DHS used to wake-up his own employees.
His department created a fake e-mail address and inserted the words, ‘Win free Redskins tickets!’
The e-mail was then blasted to staff, instructing them to click on a link in the e-mail to claim their free passes. Employees that clicked through the link received a follow-up message to come to a room in the building to receive their tickets. “There they received a briefing on proper cybersecurity practices,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s message was clear. Cyber terrorists are hell-bent on gaining access to the most vital information they can use to damage, or even destroy, the U. S. And, they’re always looking to gain entry through the easiest port of entry: our personal e-mail accounts.
As I explained in last week’s blog, once inside your system, the bad guys can run amok and, if they’re lucky enough to strike gold, gain unfettered access to Wall Street, Silicon Valley, our energy grids and our super-secret national security systems.
One hacker used this route to reach the inner workings of Boeing’s infrastructure and very nearly commandeered a plane in mid-flight. All because some knucklehead clicked on a fake link.
Johnson stressed that the average American is our first line of defense. We need to wake up and be ever more vigilant to e-mail offers from complete strangers.
It’s no exaggeration to say any one of us could aid and abet a terrorist to wreak havoc on our way of living.
After word: I was pleased to see that President Obama has gone on the offensive and opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the military’s Cyber Command to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside traditional weapons. I’ve always believed the best defense is a good offense.