IBM hosted a superb conference for its defense clients in Europe this past week.  The conference, held in Berlin, heard from several leaders of the European Defense arena, from such countries as the Netherlands, the UK, Finland, and Germany.  Also represented were Australia, Singapore, and Japan.  After an excellent plenary session, the participants broke out into three tracks, logistics, defense applications, and cyber security.  What made it so useful (and rare) was that everyone was prohibited from “selling” or discussing business.  The event was a true example of business and government cooperating and doing joint brainstorming.

The cyber security track touched on a wide range of issues.  These included both defense and general societal conundrums being faced today.  The group investigated both technical and non-technical problems and possible solutions.  I was surprised at how quickly the group of defense types gravitated to the broader challenges facing our respective countries while confronting cyber security.  The strict non-attribution policy precludes me from going into specifics, but the general message is still worth noting.

Several key issues discussed were the proper balance between security and privacy, the need for information sharing, and importance of a public education campaign to achieve real cyber “personal hygiene.”  Numerous different approaches were raised and considered, each coming from the experiences and the different governments and cultures represented.  Everyone acknowledged the degree of learning that was done on all parts.

What was most clear was the uniformity of concern among all the participants for the issue and for our mutual difficulties in meeting the growing challenges that now confront us.  These were practitioners of national defense, and those who work to support them.  Counter to all stereotypes, these individuals were every bit as concerned with raising a new generation who truly understood the dangers of today’s technology, as well as the potential for its use.  They agonized just as much about to how to protect citizen rights as they did with being able to counter a cyber attack by an enemy nation state.

It was a superb two days, which caused everyone involved to grow, and to progress a little further down the road to achieving meaningful security in the cyber realm.  Perfect security is not reachable in a constantly changing world such as cyber, but the drive to improve and get as close as possible was evidenced b the open mindedness and sharing at the IBM event.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More