In late October, a contingent of Core4ce team members attended the Cipher Brief Threat Conference in Sea Island, GA. The annual conference features thought-provoking discussions and collaboration around the country’s most pressing national security issues.
This year’s event focused on navigating to a new post-pandemic future and examining ways the public and private sectors can work efficiently to address national security threats emanating from China, Russia, cyber and space.
Core4ce CEO Jack Wilmer joined Nancy Morgan, IC Chief Data Officer, and Rick Ledgett, former Deputy Director of the NSA, in a discussion on Defending with Data. The panel, moderated by The Hon. Susan Gordon, reaffirmed the current state of cyber security threats from nation states like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The panelists offered potential solutions to protect data and mitigate the impact of a breach, including threat collection, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Regarding the threat to the Defense Industrial Base from adversarial nation states, Wilmer noted, “One of the challenges that we, as a country have, is that we have so much information that can be aggregated together that becomes really, really sensitive, that’s spread out to smaller companies who are just not equipped to be able to defend themselves against the types of threats that are going after them.”
Wilmer later affirmed the need for the government to help DIB firms better defend themselves through information sharing, emphasizing that while our adversaries have stepped up their game, the US government hasn’t taken the commensurate steps needed to assist industrial partners.
Core4ce attendees agreed that the conference represented an invaluable opportunity to bring together industry leaders to discuss compelling, and at times alarming, topics.
“The Cipher Brief Threat Conference was one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences I have had in over a decade of government support,” said Core4ce Vice President Andrew Speir. “Each panelist was well-prepared, well-informed, and provided explanations and insights unique to their area of expertise and experience supporting the intelligence community.”
Core4ce attendees cited the following sessions as standouts during the conference:
- The China Briefs – A session that debated whether the United States is entering into a new Cold War with China. The panel, moderated by David Sanger of The New York Times, provided substantive arguments for and against the Cold War analogy. The panelists addressed concerns identified by the IC, including theft of IP, the comprehensive nature of China’s efforts to be the world’s super-power, infiltration into academia, and China’s control of data and information.
- Russia’s Strategies & Successes – A session that reviewed Russia’s intent to dominate data and conduct operations to limit information, capitalize on the United States’ perceived decline, and steal technologies and industrial secrets from its adversaries (including the US). One major concern is Russia’s use of cyber espionage to undermine democracy, capitalism, and patriotism, along with the inconsistent nature of the US response to date.
- What the NSA Sees in Tracking Threats – A panel that addressed ransomware efficacy, the challenges of thwarting the threat, and the comprehensive nature with which the method can be used to bring an organization (or a nation) to its knees by targeting key infrastructure.
- Open Source and the NLP Revolution – A briefing on the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to detect threats and threat actors. NLP systems can be used to sift through the tremendous amount of open-source data available around the world seeking out information to combat both traditional and cybersecurity threats. The sheer volume of data cannot be processed using traditional human-based intelligence gathering methods of the past. With the improvement of AI and specifically NLP, significantly more data can be analyzed to locate and stop threats before they can get started.
“Attending the Cipher Brief Threat Conference was an incredible opportunity to hear from government leaders within the Intelligence Community about the cybersecurity threats we are facing each day,” said Core4ce’s Chief Information Officer Shane Breland. “This forum gave Core4ce and other industry leaders the ability to provide ideas and feedback to the government about how we can help solve our nation’s most challenging problems.
One of the key themes of the conference was public, private, and academic partnerships to ensure thought leaders from around the world are collaborating to defend against nation state and terrorist threat actors. We must be able to out-think our adversaries and having diversity in participants will be the key to our success.”