Reaching for a Cybersecurity Moonshot: A Message for Davos 2018

Mark McLaughlin

Category: Cybersecurity, Events

This week, I’ll be heading to Davos, Switzerland, to participate again in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The theme for this year’s event, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” is particularly apt for those of us dedicated to protecting our way of life in the digital age. One of the mission statements is to “rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world.”

Endemic to any shared narrative to improve the world is recognition of the central role of digital technologies in empowering the fourth industrial revolution – an important theme in the past two World Economic Forum Annual Meetings. With digital technology, we can change the world, but only if we can ensure that the people who use and benefit from our innovation and invention believe the digital world we create is safe, secure and worthy of their trust.

Building that level of trust demands that we focus on cybersecurity, as recognized by the World Economic Forum with the formal launch of the new Global Centre for Cybersecurity at Davos this year. To that end, we must approach cybersecurity as a cooperative endeavor, coalescing critical resources from around the globe and moving forward with great purpose and urgency. The importance of the mission and the massive effort it will require – focusing our energies in technology, science, education, business and diplomacy – are comparable to and reminiscent of the venture to put a man on the moon in the 1960s.

In 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The moonshot immediately became a rallying cry across science, technology, education, government and private business. President Kennedy had the vision to know that coalescing around a single, clearly articulated goal – within a specific time frame – would have tangible, measurable and long-lasting benefits.

We are in a similar place today. The unlimited promise of the digital age, and the existential threat cybersecurity poses to that promise, demands that we advocate, evangelize and undertake a comparable effort. I am therefore proposing a Cybersecurity Moonshot with a simple, yet powerful goal: make the internet safe in 10 years. To achieve this goal, we must overcome whatever skepticism we have that perhaps it is too difficult or the time frame too condensed. We must recognize the simple reality: these are urgent times that call for urgent measures. Unless we are able to strive for and reach this Cybersecurity Moonshot, the highest aspirations we have for the digital age may be delayed or deferred.

Sharing this vision is an important part of our role at Davos. It is vital that leaders across the worlds of business, government, education and the arts recognize that a shared narrative to heal a fractured world must incorporate cybersecurity. It is also important that we use our leadership position to encourage organizations in all disciplines to play active roles in supporting the Cybersecurity Moonshot. In recognition of the theme at Davos, there are several aspects of the Cybersecurity Moonshot we will make sure to discuss with fellow attendees. These include:

  1. Process – making automated information sharing real: Sharing information is critical to a shared future. One way to achieve this is through the automated sharing of global cyberthreat intelligence. By joining forces, we can protect and strengthen the defenses of our digital society for the greater good.
  1. Technology – unlocking security innovation: No single technology can solve all security challenges. Instead, many must be integrated as parts of a larger, global ecosystem to achieve the automation necessary to proactively prevent successful attacks.
  1. People – building a cybersecurity-conscious society: We must all be committed to building a cybersecurity-conscious society, using partnerships that promote early cybersecurity education and the building of an inclusive, diverse cybersecurity workforce.

Cybersecurity is not a new topic – in fact, it has been an important theme at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in the prior two years – but as we move into 2018, the importance of cybersecurity has never been more prominent. Our visions and hopes for the digital world are targets at which many adversaries are firing.

Only by joining forces and actively engaging in efforts to create a safer ecosystem can we collectively overcome this challenge. It is imperative that we rise to the occasion, that we embrace the challenge of the Cybersecurity Moonshot with passion and vigor. We are excited by the opportunity to discuss our vision for the Cybersecurity Moonshot with other like-minded organizations at the Forum.

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