'Security Jam' online event highlights need for international cybersecurity

Security Jam 2012, an online forum led by NATO and European Union officials, has netted a list of ideas about how to improve Europe's defense posture and crisis management. And cybersecurity figured high on the list, with some saying NATO and the EU need a "coalition of the willing" to help with international cyberdefense.

Some 3,000 "jammers" from 115 countries participated.

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According to a resultant report published by the Brussels-based think tank Security & Defense Agenda, which hosted the online event with IBM's help, the "coalition" idea was put forward by Vytautas Butrimas, chief adviser for cybersecurity at the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence. He suggested a voluntary undertaking not unlike what occurred with industry experts banding together to try and contain the Conficker worm, which was detected a few years ago exploiting Microsoft operating systems.

Butrimas is quoted as pointing out that "nobody told them to work together, they just decided out of their understanding of the Internet and the threat of the worm to cause havoc to our online world that action was needed."

According to the report, some attending Security Jam 2012 were ambivalent about the "coalition of the willing," though, concerned that it would be hard to coordinate without common understandings of cybersecurity norms.

But the Security Jam report says Jamie Shea, deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges at NATO, disagreed this should be an obstacle, and said it was time to get down to the business of preventing cyberattacks.

Another idea also put forward was that there was a need for more public discussion of cyberthreats, with the hope of eventually achieving an internationally agreed-upon cyberspace treaty one day.

According to the report, "Jammers were generally united in calling for a treaty-based, internationally recognized 'cyberspace convention' -- be it through an arms-control model or a normative, 'rule of the road' approach."

Another cybersecurity idea that made the top 10 list from the Security Jam was that "'White Hat' hacker recruitment should be incorporated to public cyber-security policy."

Norica Nicolai, Romanian member of parliament and vice chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defence, is quoted as saying that public agencies should try to "make it more attractive for [hackers] to become a part of and defend the system," instead of trying to hack it.

This was an acknowledgement that White Hat security assessment programs with talented individuals running penetration or other types of security analysis are great sources for finding weaknesses in networks. However, some expressed worries whether governments could afford this kind of expertise. There was also concern that Europe's financial crisis and high rates of employment could push young people with cybersecurity skills into cybercrime or sabotage.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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