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Trends and Emerging Threats in Cyberspace: Recapping the Southeast Regional Cyber Security & Technology Symposium

By Kim Kotlar and Inés Jordan-Zoob. October 18, 2018.

Cyberspace continues to present growing opportunities and challenges, for national security, global businesses, and individuals alike. That is why North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tills, along with the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) and the Defense Technology Transition Office, host an annual Southeast Region Cyber Security & Technology Symposium. This year’s symposium brought together national experts who discussed current and future trends in technology and policy, as well as perspectives of educators and students, including Inés.

General Paul Nakasone, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the Director of the National Security Agency, was the morning’s keynote speaker. He broadly discussed the current national landscape and strategic environment, but most noteworthy was his discussion of a competitive shift away from armed conflict and toward cyberspace conflict. The U.S. and its allies are under constant attack, he noted—below the level of military conflict—including through network intrusions, influence campaigns, and data theft. These are all tactical actions that may have strategic impact.

Adversaries will only have more attack vectors to choose from with the emergence of 5G communications technology, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the rise of an increasingly interconnected economy—all of which increase the need for more security. Drawing from language in the recently released national security, defense, and cyber strategies, General Nakasone highlighted a shift toward defending forward, persistent presence, and the need for a world-class workforce. “The advantage goes to the side that innovates faster,” he said.

With an eye toward the future, the second keynote speaker, Dr. Alexander Kott, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, dismissed the idea of the Internet of Things, instead imagining a “diverse society of intelligent beings, of which humans are just one element.” He warned that within this society of intelligent beings, humanity will be incredible vulnerable; he also indicated that artificial intelligence (AI) is not yet mature enough to apply to some problems including cyber defense.

Kim: One of the most interesting panels focused on the need to enhance cyber education, training and research. Since cyber impacts all of us, it’s important to develop tailored and general  training and education that begins in grade school and continues through life-long learning. I was impressed with Inés’ insightful comments, especially as she pointed out the need for interdisciplinary collaborative approaches to cyber.

Inés: As the only undergraduate student at the conference, I definitely provided a different perspective than most people. I spoke about my personal experience with a lack of cyber-related academics and extracurricular offerings at Duke, and how I worked to fill the void. I also discussed the obstacles the government faces when hiring young professionals in this field, namely, the disparity in lifestyles and salaries when compared to careers at private technology companies and much of Silicon Valley. Overall, the conference was a fantastic way to engage with practitioners in the field and learn more about the promising nexus of both public and private sector work around cyber occurring in North Carolina. Comparing my own academic experience with faculty from NC State, Ft. Gordon (the Army’s Cyber School) and Fayetteville Community College proved invaluable.

Several other panels highlighted cyber and IoT challenges and emerging requirements and opportunities for industry engagement.

Kim Kotlar is a retired Naval Officer and the coach of the Duke Cyber Team.

Inés Jordan-Zoob is a senior double-majoring in political science and art history and the Vice President of the Duke Cyber Team. She is an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar and a contractor for MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator. Her writing has appeared in SIGNAL Magazine and Real Clear Defense.