Singer argues for need to understand cybersecurity



Cybersecurity is not just an issue for the IT crowd.

That’s what Peter Singer, former director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution, hopes to convey in his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater. Week Three’s lecture theme is “The Ethics of Privacy.”

Singer hopes to walk the audience through the importance of the space one occupies on the Internet and what one can do in response to cybersecurity threats.

“I would argue there’s no issue that’s more important and less understood,” he said.

Seventy percent of business executives have made some sort of cybersecurity decision for their company, and 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies have been hacked, yet the attitude that cybersecurity is too complex or difficult to do anything about persists. However, as long as people treat it as something for someone else to understand, they will remain vulnerable and be taken advantage of, Singer said.

Cybersecurity has been framed with fear, uncertainty and doubt, which leads to a paralysis — but there are concrete things one can do to protect families, businesses and the nation, Singer said.Singer, who recently founded the tech advisory services firm NeoLuddite, will go over basic things people can do to protect themselves and others, and will present cybersecurity as a mentality and a responsibility. Taking a cue from Benjamin Franklin, who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Singer will talk about the issues in a framework of “cyber hygiene.”

Between the Edward Snowden leak and the Target security breach — the former of which brought cybersecurity into the news, the latter of which brought it into homes — the issue is now being taken more seriously than it has been in years past. However, it remains a challenge, partly because cybersecurity faces a dynamic adversary that responds to improvements and changes.

“Are we there yet? No,” Singer said. “We have a long way to go; we were at an incredibly low baseline, so to speak.”

Much of Singer’s lecture will be structured around his book, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, which he wrote out of “a mix of interest and frustration.” The only cybersecurity books he saw on the market were incredibly dense ones designed for specialists, and “get scared” books, so he wrote a guide about navigating the world of cybersecurity, and most importantly, what one can do about it.

He also hopes to convey that everyone — an Army general, a corporate CEO or parents worried about their kids on the Internet — is touched by these issues, since “we all play in this space.”

“It’s not an issue that’s going to kind of go away,” Singer said. “Hopefully that makes us get smarter so we don’t have to wait for that catastrophe.”