April 26, 2016 – Greater cooperation and information sharing between the government and the private sector must take place in order to combat cyber attacks, FBI Director James Comey said today during Georgetown’s sixth annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement.
The conference, organized by Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service CyberProject, has generated international discussion about technical innovations and policy alternatives with experts from more than a dozen countries.
“We simply must get better at working with the private sector,” Comey said. “This is at the core of us being effective.”
According to Comey, only 20 percent of cyber attack victims in the private sector alert law enforcement about the intrusions.
He attributed the low reporting rate to a fear by company owners that the public will learn about the attacks and lose confidence in products and services.
“The FBI knows how to minimize disruption to enterprise and protect privacy,” Comey explained.
Other keynote speakers at the conference are U.S. Navy Admiral Michael Rogers, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island). Several panel discussions with government and private sector representatives from all over the world also are scheduled for the all day conference.
Privacy vs. Security
Comey addressed his agency’s recent battle with Apple over the encryption of a San Bernardino, California, gunman’s iPhone.
“There is a collision between values we all share – privacy and security,” said Comey. “It would be bad if the conversation this has started, ended.”
He reminded the audience that since the founding of the nation, privacy has never been absolute, and it should not be in the future either.
“We should not drift to a place where wide swaths of American life are immune from judicial process,” he said.
Comey explained that the threat to cybersecurity is growing.
“Terrorists have become highly proficient at using the internet to sell their message and recruit for attacks,” he said, and they are increasingly interested in using technology to infiltrate government and business systems.
“That’s a threat we constantly worry about,” Comey said.
Cybersecurity at Georgetown
The Georgetown conference promotes dialogue among policymakers, academics, and key industry stakeholders from across the globe and explores the worldwide community's increasing interconnectivity.
Catherine Lotrionte, a professor of government and in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, leads the CyberProject.
She says most conferences on cybersecurity are either highly technical or solely focused on policy. She says most also focus on U.S. perspectives only.
“Our conference is truly international,” she said before the conference last year. “Clearly the internet is global, so these challenges are global and the solutions are going to have to be global. We have people from different countries with a wide variety expertise sharing the challenges they’re facing as nations and as citizens. Hopefully one day we will get to the point where some of this bridge building turns into solutions for the United States and the rest of the world.”