NEWPORT – Nearly 40 corporate leaders attended a cybersecurity table-top exercise Wednesday to kick off The Rhode Island Corporate Cybersecurity Initiative at the Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.
The private, invitation-only, six-hour event opened with a half-hour welcome presentation which the media was allowed to attend. Private group-discussion table-top exercises were to follow.
During the presentation, Chris C. Demchak, professor at the U.S. Naval War College and co-director of the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies, identified three qualities corporate leaders need to adjust to a world in which cyberspace breaches are growing in frequency and severity.
Besides being resilient and using operational gaming to train workers outside a company’s IT department, corporate leaders need to be aware that the Internet has become a “substrate,” or groundwork, that is “open to everybody, but will not stay that way,” she said. Protecting cyber infrastructure cannot be left to a company’s IT department, she added.
“Governments are erecting virtual borders,” Demchak said. “You’re going to have to deal with that, too.”
Lost “cyberprofits” and even “your demise” may come through “a cyber conflict that has nothing to do with you,” she said.
Francesca Spidalieri, Pell Center fellow and author of the studies on cybersecurity and leadership, said prior to the meeting that this would be the first of many events aimed at preparing corporate companies large and small to prevent emerging cyber threats and mitigate their impact when they do occur.
Jim Lavoie – CEO of Middletown-based Rite-Solutions Inc., a government engineering and software development contractor – shared his story about being hacked on a normal business day. His network got 42,399 hits against its firewall from 71 different countries within a 24-hour period, he said.
“There’s nothing special about me or my company,” he said. “It wasn’t a special day, it wasn’t 9/11, it was just a day – a Thursday. I either have a lot of potential customers or people think I’m special, so I got hacked,” he said.
He then shared how he addressed the issue – by reaching out to Raytheon of Waltham, Mass., for whom Rite-Solutions is a vendor, for help; investing a “modest” amount of money in protective infrastructure; training everyone; and making changes.
“Know you’re a target, even though you’re not special,” he advised.
John C. Alfred, detective corporal for the Rhode Island State Police, praised Lavoie for his candor.
“Most people don’t do what you do,” he said. Most people think, ‘I’m not going to be that guy.’”