Cyber Security Symposium Held at UNC Charlotte

Senator Richard Burr speaking at the symposium

By Samir Shukla

The annual Cyber Security Symposium was held on the campus of University of North Carolina at Charlotte on October 14, 2015. The University has been hosting the symposium for 16 years and it has become one of the top cyber security gatherings in the Southeast. The day-long symposium covered the wide array of cyber security needs for businesses, governments, personal computers, as well any organization that uses single or networked systems for their use. Of course in the contemporary world, the threat pretty much covers everyone.

Cybersecurity has become a requisite expense account for any enterprise, governments, academia and personal computers. Billions of dollars are spent trying to thwart hackers and cyber attackers from entering networks and stealing data. Malicious software is pervasive. Phishing is commonplace.

The varied speakers touched on many subjects including cyber terrorism, state-sponsored cyber-attacks and the possibility of future cyber wars between nation states.

The speakers ranged from experts in corporate sectors, military sectors and government security agencies including the National Security Agency, Department of Defense and Homeland Security.

Phishing, penetrating networks via links or attachments that install malware when clicked, is the most common way hackers get into systems. A worker can click on a benign looking email that may look like it originated from an official source and the link will install malware that is used to further hack the networks. It's a common tactic that has affected large corporations, government agencies, and small businesses.

Ways to reduce the efficacy of phishing as well as stopping malware links to get to the end user were discussed at the symposium.

United States Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina (R) was the keynote speaker who talked about the probability of future wars conducted in cyber space and how governments, especially the Chinese, are active in hacking into corporate and government networks.

Burr, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke about the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act that he introduced back in March. The bill passed the Senate on October 27 and will now go to the House and then the President. If it is approved in the House and the President signs, it will become law.

The bill is controversial with many tech companies as they argue that it will adversely further affect the erosion of privacy in cyberspace.

Burr said the need for the bill is paramount because, “the imagination of those who attack far exceed those who defend." He said the bill has three elements: One is Business to Business, which provides opportunity for businesses to contact their competition to check if similar attack happened to them. The bill waives all anti-trust liabilities for such contact and offers further legal protection. The second is business to government, which makes the ability to transfer data to government for inspection easier. Burr said personal information and data would not be transferred, but only information about the mode of attack, who attacked, what method they used…etc. The third is government to business, where businesses can invite the government to find out about the attack via access to their systems."

He said this is about sharing information to make it easier to prevent future attacks as well as track down hackers. “Most attack tools are not industry specific, they are broad to infiltrate portals," he said.

He added, there are “78 public and private academic institutions in North Carolina. There's no better state to build the cyber workforce (of the future)."