Technicity2013 Cybersecurity Keynote: Microsoft’s Angela McKay

This morning at Technicity 2013, we mostly heard from academics and public sector; this afternoon, it’s almost all private sector presentations and panels, starting with a keynote from Angela McKay, director of cybersecurity and strategy at Microsoft, on managing cyber risks through different approaches to addressing uncertainty. Risk, and therefore answering the question “am I secure enough?”, are quite individual choices: different people and different companies (and cultures) have different risk thresholds, and therefore may have different cybersecurity strategies.

By 2020, we will have 4B internet users, 50B connected devices, and data volumes 50x those of 2010. As users evolved, so have cyber threats: from early web defacement hacks, to worms, to the present day botnets and targeted attacks. There is a spectrum of cybersecurity threats: crime, disruptions (e.g., DDoS attacks), espionage, conflict, war; there is a lot of technological development going on around these, but there are also cultural and policy issues, namely the expectations of consumers, companies and governments. McKay discussed the EU network and information security directive and the US executive order and presidential policy directive on cybersecurity, and the levels of new regulation that are coming.

Reducing the impact of cyber threats involves risk management, information exchange, and effective partnership (both public-private and between private organizations). You can’t do risk management without information, and this means that cybersecurity is a CIO-level issue, not just some technical plumbing. Information sharing, however, can’t be indiscriminate; it has to be focused on specific outcomes. [As an aside, I’m not sure that I agree with this in some situations: open data initiatives work because the “owners” of the data can’t conceive of what anyone would do with their data, yet emergent uses happen with interesting results.] Private-public partnerships bring together the policies and goals related to public safety of the public sector, and the technical know-how of the private sector.

She spoke about the shared responsibilities for managing cyber risks: awareness and education, partnering effectively, driving and incentivizing cyber security, adopting best practices, building advancing capabilities, and developing a secure workforce. Furthermore, academia has to step up and start teaching security concepts and remedies at the college and university level, since most developers don’t have much of an idea about cyber risks unless they specialized in security post-graduation.

Microsoft is the premier sponsor of Technicity 2013, although to be fair, McKay’s talk covered very little about their products and services except for some generic discussion about automated cyberdefense at a machine level. Her slides used that ubiquitous font that we see on the Microsoft Windows 8 website, however, so probably some subliminal messaging going on. 🙂

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