CIRI Symposium attracts thought leaders, exhibits outputs-oriented research
Earlier this month, the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute held its annual meeting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The event, titled the CIRI Symposium on Resilience of Critical Infrastructures, drew nearly 100 participants from academia, government, and the private sector to hear about CIRI projects, to discuss pressing critical infrastructure challenges, and to explore new opportunities to collaborate.
“Since 2015 CIRI has been addressing the urgent and difficult challenges facing the nation’s critical infrastructure resilience and security,” said Matthew Coats, Director of the Office of University Programs in the Dept. of Homeland Security. “At the Symposium, CIRI showcased its success in delivering innovative research, converting that research into impactful commercial products, and developing novel workforce development initiatives, as well as its exciting plans for the near future. Academic-operator partnerships like the COEs enable the department to explore, experiment, and evaluate new opportunities.”
The Symposium kicked off with a keynote from Christoper Nissen, Director, Asymmetric Threat Response, the MITRE Corporation and co-author of the MITRE document Deliver Uncompromised: A Strategy for Supply Chain Security and Resilience in Response to the Changing Character of War. Chris powerfully established the national imperative to recognize and address the cybersecurity threats posed by nation-state actors who employ cyber attacks as a new form of asymmetric warfare.
Ray Rothrock, CEO of RedSeal and author of Digital Resilience: Is Your Company Ready for the Next Cyber Threat delivered a compelling talk about the need for organizations to adopt a new digital strategy focused on cyber resilience, which includes carefully balancing process, technology, and people. Rothrock sees digital resilience as a business issue – not a cyber security issue – and he calls on C-suites across the country to embrace that view.
University of Illinois Provost, Andreas Cangellaris, spoke to CIRI’s role in navigating “cyber-physical-human” connections. Sarah Ellis-Peed, associate director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Risk Management Center, extrapolated on the theme, addressing the five major DHS priorities for cybersecurity and infrastructure security. As Ellis-Peed stated, “all of the lights are blinking red in cybersecurity.” Areas of concern included safeguarding the supply chain, industrial control systems safety, federal network security, soft target security, and election security. The wide variety of research presentations over the course of the symposium demonstrated CIRI’s commitment to safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure systems.
Both current and newly-funded CIRI projects were introduced, with an emphasis on outputs-oriented research and the institute’s tech transition mission.
Wayne Carson from USTRANSCOM provided the keynote on tech transition, emphasizing USTRANSCOM’s reliance on private sector partners to accomplish many of its global missions. Carson described how CIRI’s efforts to enhance the cybersecurity and resilience of USTRANSCOM’s private sector operators can enhance the Command’s mission assurance. Illinois Business Consulting Associate Director Eric Swenson spoke to the role of IBC in CIRI’s commercialization strategy. IBC is helping transition three CIRI projects, including the Cyber Secure Dashboard and cyber insurance tools, Cyber Risk Scoring and Mitigation (CRISM) tool, and Business Resilience Calculator (BRC).
On the second day of the conference, Lizabeth Stuck from MxD: The Digital Manufacturing Institute provided a keynote on the challenges of developing a workforce with the skills needed to address today’s cyber threats. The discussion segued into a panel discussion on the issue of workforce development and how CIRI can make an impact in this mission area.
“We are very grateful to the many industry and government stakeholders that were able to join us and to engage with our staff and researchers,” said CIRI Director David M. Nicol. “Stakeholder insights and perspectives help us to ensure that our research and development remains grounded in the reality of real-world needs and focused on delivering real and meaningful impact.”