Security & Privacy Techonomy Events

Bret Hartman of RSA on Cyber Defense

In this video from Techonomy 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., Bret Hartman, CTO of RSA, talks about lessons his company learned when they faced a major cyber attack in early 2011. Hartman addresses the technological, legal, and political barriers to protecting our security, and discusses the severity of intellectual property theft as a global problem.

Hartman: So earlier this year, RSA was a target of a major cyber attack. And this is a pretty big deal, because RSA is a big supplier of information security for a large part of the IT industry. We support the government, the Department of Defense, the White House. We support lots of—actually most of Fortune 500 companies, a huge amount of online banking, tens of millions of users. Probably you all use, in one form or another, our sorts of technology. So if we think about an attack, on our—say this is an attack on all of us, on all of us as customers. So we were fortunate that we detected the attack early on. We’ve gone through a huge amount to avert the implications of the attack, and there are a number of lessons that we have learned about this attack—that we’ve all learned—that I wanted to share very briefly with you today. First of all, the primary issue is that intellectual property theft is at epic proportions and it’s growing and no one is immune. If it could happen to RSA, it could happen to every single organization in this room and that’s something to be very aware of. The primary issue here is that the attackers are focused, not just on technology, but there are people at the other end of the wire, so this is people versus people, and they’re pretty smart groups, and if they try one attack and that doesn’t work they will go to something else. So it’s very complicated to defend ourselves. In fact, in particular, there’s the issue that these attackers have far better information and intelligence; they know far more about us than we know about them. This is really the underlying issue. The thing we need to fix is that the defenders need to share more information among all of us to be able to better defend ourselves. And so just very briefly I will talk about some of the barriers with respect to protecting ourselves and sharing that information. There are technical issues, legal issues and political issues.

On the technical side, we need some good standards out there. There is a lot of proprietary work, and we need to break down the barriers so that all different kinds of organizations can have interoperable sharing of information, of this kind of intelligence.

The second issue in terms of the legal topic, there’s requirements in terms of a common federal breach law, as an example, and also dealing with challenges around liability and antitrust—so, to make it easier for organizations to be motivated to share that information.

And finally there are the political issues. There’s the fact that oftentimes we think about this in national terms, one particular country versus another, and especially in this group, it’s really important to think about this internationally. It is something that we all need to view, and we all need to look at ways to cooperate together.

This is something I think—in summary I think it’s hugely challenging. It’s going to take a long time to address. It’s critical for all of us to think about it and work on it together. But it’s an important part of what is required to make this whole cyber world safe and stable for us all to use.

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