Exploring the potential of public-private partnerships in cybersecurity

Jim Richberg at Fortinet on cybersecurity

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Cybersecurity is a team sport, reports Jim Richberg, Head of Cyber Policy and Global Field CISO, Fortinet.

Today’s technology environment is vastly different than when I retired from federal service.

We have seen accelerated movement to the cloud and a shift from largely wired networks to software defined networks.

Cybersecurity depends on teamwork

We’ve also witnessed a proliferation of internet of things (IoT) devices and dramatic growth in the breadth and power of AI-enabled services.

Layer onto these technological changes the COVID-fuelled imperative to enable remote work and off-site connectivity and the result is that IT and communications are now laser focused on enabling the connection of users, devices, data and computing power regardless of where these are located and how they are provided.

Meeting these demands securely is more than any single user, company or government agency can realistically expect to do alone.

At its core, cybersecurity is a team sport.

Any good coach tells their team to “talk to each other out there on the field.”

Cybersecurity is no different.

Cyber-criminals talk to each other, actively partnering to bring their specific skills to a criminal enterprise.

To keep up, industry and governments must work together to share cyber-threat intelligence and have interoperable cybersecurity tools and sensors.

This partnership needs to be multidimensional and multidirectional with collaboration and a two way flow of information between the public and private sectors and within each sector.

Transparency and trust

With so much of our lives dependent on or enabled by technology, it is important to be able to trust networks and have confidence in the security of the data flowing across them.

Creating a culture of trust and greater transparency is crucial for organisations to make complex cybersecurity decisions and help users make more informed purchases.

Consumers need better visibility into key criteria of the technology they use, including where it was developed or manufactured, the manufacturer and the security posture of the technology.

This focus on trust was evident at the macro communications network level with the ban on certain companies that were deemed a national security threat.

As digital technology becomes more ubiquitous, we should be asking the same questions about other aspects of our broader communications networks.

Is the router in my home secure? Is my television listening to my family dinner conversations?

Consumers need to be able to trust the technology they are using to increase the resiliency of our nation’s cyber posture.

Increased transparency will help fuel this trust.

Transparency and trust can be addressed through market forces.

For example, although the number of IoT devices in use is growing dramatically, many of these devices lack even rudimentary security capabilities.

It can be difficult for even sophisticated consumers to determine which devices have adequate security.

The human element

Partnerships should extend to supporting consumers as well. It is not realistic to expect consumers to successfully “go it alone” in understanding cybersecurity.

The person using their home computer, the small business owner buying a Wi-Fi access point and the school administrator purchasing equipment for students all need support.

Addressing the human element is part of our cybersecurity mission.

We are working to help build the cyber workforce of the future and ensure that all members of society have cyber awareness and fundamental competence in cybersecurity.

We have dramatically expanded our award-winning free training on cyber threats and on good cybersecurity practices because educating users at every level is critical to our collective security.

To succeed, efforts with users must begin at a young age and involve partnerships across government, industry and academia.

Fortinet has made significant commitments to this cause through the Fortinet Training Institute.

For example, we have committed to training over 1 million new users over by 2026 to help close the sizeable cyber skills gap; and we are on track, having achieved over 43% of this goal by the end of 2023.

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