Last month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gathered together almost 700 experts from the cyber security community to discuss the future direction of cyber issues surrounding national security. The colloquium took place in Arlington, Va. and focused on finding themes that represent where the rapidly evolving field is likely to head in the next few years. Attendees also had the opportunity to see the latest projects in DARPA’s Cyber Program, including attempts to improve the transmission of encrypted communications and efforts to streamline government contracting.
During the day-long conference, three general themes emerged as critical to the future of national cyber security. First, malicious cyber attacks are more than annoyances; they are "a real threat to an increasingly large number of systems that we interact with daily." The range of these targets, according to the attendees, is broad, including everything from "the power grid to our financial systems to our automobiles and our military systems."
Second, cyber will play a major role in modern warfare. While classic notions of military conflict (e.g. "kinetic" capacities) are still and will likely always be important, cyberspace represents a new battlefield and one where America is underpowered — both in terms of offense and defense.
Third, while the current direction of America’s cyber security is a positive one, the community needs to grow and diversify participation in the cyber community relating to national security, particularly the Department of Defense. The conference ended with a call by DARPA Director Dr. Regina E. Dugan to "acknowledge and prepare to protect the Nation in this new environment."
The importance of cybersecurity has made it one of the hottest fields for cleared job seekers. While most federal agencies are facing cutbacks due to financial problems, the fields of IT and cybersecurity continue to grow as agencies — particularly those relating to national security — look to upgrade their IT infrastructure and protect it from foreign intruders. In fact, cybersecurity is one of the few fields with steadily growing budgets in many federal agencies.
You can find photos and other information from the conference here: http://www.darpa.mil/Cyber_Colloquium_Presentations.aspx.
Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.