RSA Conference: RSA security chief slams 'cyber Pearl Harbor'

News by Dan Raywood

The use of the term 'cyber Pearl Harbor' has been slammed by Art Coviello, executive vice president of EMC and executive chairman of RSA, who said that he 'hated' the term.

The use of the term 'cyber Pearl Harbor' has been slammed by Art Coviello, executive vice president of EMC and executive chairman of RSA, who said that he 'hated' the term.

Talking about the benefits of decent Big Data capture, cloud computing, the 'Internet of Things' and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, Coviello used his opening keynote to say that Big Data has the "potential to change our lives and every aspect of our daily lives" and that we are only at the "dawn of Big Data".

He said: “It won't be long before Big Data applications and stores become the crown jewels of organisations, and are readily accessible in the cloud but not just to us – to our adversaries as well.”

Looking at attribution of attacks, Coviello said that much is made of them, but asked: "Do we really need to see a smoking gun to know there is a dead body on the floor?" He continued by saying that when defending ourselves, we need to have a thorough understanding of how to go about it and go beyond intrusion.

He said: “If we as an industry over-hype the situation, governments will not take steps to help us defend ourselves. I hate the term cyber Pearl Harbor, but what do I do differently when I do it? This was a physically destructive event and from the internet it is not impossible, but as of today it is highly unlikely. Attacks on financial services not only cause significant economic loss, but a loss of public confidence. With an attack on critical infrastructure such as the power grid, we should be prepared and focus on the source and severity and the threat is significant, and it will become a pathway and prelude to attacks, and more and more elements of infrastructure pathway will become clear.

“The term 'cyber Pearl Harbor' may raise awareness, but it does nothing to raise the understanding of the true situation. Until recently, the press didn't see what we see, but nobody wants to be exposed and like an iceberg, the true depth of the problem remains hidden.

“We are at the next stage in evolution of this age and as we face an equally evolving threat landscape, the clear cause is new and [it is] time to disenthrall us from the dogma of the past.”

Coviello concluded by saying that we should be able to deal with our adversaries and in some instances, get ahead of them. “We cannot escape history and we will be remembered in spite of ourselves,” he said.

“We will protect information technology and the world will not forget that we say this, we know what to do to create a trusted digital world. We need the help of governments and Big Data will help this model in transforming security, but it must begin with us.”

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