Incident Response, TDR

RSA 2014: Security exec talks cyber warfare and industry’s breaking point


A security executive pushed the community to think hard, but not too long, about their “breaking point,” as it pertains to the growing threat landscape.

According to Nawaf Bitar, senior vice president and general manager for the security business unit at Juniper Networks, the industry must muster up real outrage to respond to the many revelations that threaten the cyber, and potential physical security, of Americans.

During a Tuesday morning keynote at RSA Conference 2014 in San Francisco, Bitar referenced nation state threats, both domestic and from abroad, as well as attacks “occurring everyday” that expose the public's data.

Throughout his talk, called “The Next World War Will be Fought in Silicon Valley,” he also pushed attendees to challenge their notion of “outrage” concerning these events.

“I'm fed up about talking about outrage,” Bitar said, before comparing the actions of late activists Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi to more tepid acts of protest, which he called “first world outrage.”

“Liking a cause on Facebook is not outrage. Retweeting a link is not outrage…not showing up at a conference is not outrage,” Bitar said.

The later remark stirred applause from some in the audience – and was undoubtedly a reference to the backlash that occurred in the industry after a December Reuters article reported of an alleged shady deal between the National Security Agency (NSA) and security firm RSA that caused the company's BSAFE software to be compromised.

Soon after the news broke, respected researchers and security experts canceled their appearances at the annual RSA Conference.

To respond to growing threats from diverse actors, Bitar said that, instead of “hacking back” sophisticated cyber criminals or government-backed groups targeting sensitive data, the industry should go the offensive by pursuing innovation that “challenges convention.”

Without taking action, Bitar warned that cyber attacks against critical infrastructure (or processes that could endanger the public's physical safety if interrupted or attacked), could take place.

“What will happen when one of these attacks jumps the firewall and real people die?” Bitar said, during his keynote.

The options are either to embrace and vet sound innovation, or to be ill prepared for the next-level attacker poised to strike, he continued.

“We can turn the other cheek and we can passively wait for the next world war to begin in Silicon Valley,” Bitar warned.

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