Hack the Capitol may sound ominous given the January 6 riots that saw the halls of power in our nation breached by a mob of angry protesters, but Hack the Capitol 4.0 isn’t meant to do damage to our democratic institutions. Rather it is a multi-track event designed to educate congressional staffers, scholars, and even the media on some of the critical cybersecurity challenges that our nation faces today.

Hack the Capitol 4.0

This year’s event will be held virtually on Tuesday, May 4 from 9am to 5:30pm ET.

Hack the Capitol 4.0 is being presented by ICS village in a partnership with the R Street Institute, the Cyber Bytes Foundation and the National Security Institute (NSI). The day-long, multi-track event will feature three programming tracks including: Policy Panels and Presentations, including keynotes and fireside chats from leading government officials; “Technical Talks,” which are designed to offer a deep dive into leading issues in cybersecurity; and an online Exhibition Hall, which will feature demonstrations of industrial control systems.

Confirmed speakers include, among others: Dr. Reem Al-Shammari, chief information security officer for the Kuwait Oil Company; Tatyana Bolton, policy director for R Street Institute’s Cybersecurity & Emerging Threats team; Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), co-chair of the Cybersecurity Solarium Commission; Rep. Jim Langevin (R-Rhode Island), co-chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus, which he help to found; Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California), one of the sponsors of the 2018 Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act; and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), the vice ranking member of House Armed Services Committee.

An Annual Event

When ICS Village organized the first two-day Hack the Capitol event, it was meant to address the dangers presented by the threats from various Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and how these could be employed to breach cyber networks. It also focused on Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and security.

As with the upcoming event, it was mean to provide hands-on education and awareness to members of the public, as well as to Congress, think tanks, and the press.

“The ICS Village is a non-profit that provides education and awareness on critical infrastructure security,” explained Bryson Bort, R Street Institute senior fellow and an advisor to the Army Cyber Institute. He is also the founder and CEO of SCYTHE, a start-up building a next-generation attack emulation platform, and GRIMM, a boutique cybersecurity consultancy.

“We have traveled the U.S. advancing this mission for years,” Bort told ClearanceJobs. “It occurred to us a few years ago, we’re based in D.C. – why not put together a conference focused on the policymakers? They could really benefit from hands-on exposure with real equipment and a chance to meet and learn from the practitioners on the front-lines keeping us safe every day.”

With each conference, Hack the Capitol has expanded, and now has become an event that has attracted lawmakers as speakers, while it continues to bring together like-minded forward thinkers from the cybersecurity community to help discuss the threats – and solutions to those to threats – facing the nation.

“NSI is proud to co-host the Hack the Capitol event, now in its fourth year,” said Jamil N. Jaffer, founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University.

“Hack the Capitol consistently brings real technical expertise to the cybersecurity and industrial security conversation,” Jaffer told ClearanceJobs. “It provides policymakers and the general public a more nuanced understanding of the key challenges facing American critical infrastructure providers and ideas about how to address these threats.”

Taking Cybersecurity Virtual

While this year’s event has to be held virtual, due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, it has continued to grow in stature, even as it was reduced to a single day-long event with multiple tracks and presentations.

“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with ICS Village and R Street for another year supporting Hack the Capital,” said Joel Scharlat, director of operations at the Cyber Bytes Foundation, which provides cybersecurity education, innovation, and outreach programs.

“This event aligns well with our goals,” Scharlat told ClearanceJobs. “Hack the Capital directly supports collaboration among security researchers and congressional members and their staff which promotes the security of our nation and its critical infrastructure.”

Focus on Critical Infrastructure

And while critical infrastructure is not a new buzz word, there is much greater focus on it, and why it is important to ensure that it isn’t the target of a cyber attack.

“Critical infrastructure (CI) is so often forgotten and we at R Street are excited to partner with ICS Village to co-host an event that puts CI security front and center,” R Street Institute’s Tatyana Bolton told ClearanceJobs. The nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy research organization has worked to stress the importance of CI in policy research. Summed up by Bolton, “Education is key to strong cybersecurity – and I’m so happy Hack the Capitol has taken off so well.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.