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Infosecurity-ISACA Conference Highlights: Hands-On Experiences and Dialogue Around Emerging Technologies, 2020 Predictions and Women in Tech

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Theresa Payton set the tone for the first day of last week’s Infosecurity ISACA North America Expo & Conference in New York City, delving into the multifaceted landscape of emerging technologies with the audience of information security professionals, and also sharing anecdotes from one of her most high-profile jobs, as White House CIO under the George W. Bush administration—including a story of negotiating with a cyber criminal on the dark web at her kitchen table over three nights.

Throughout her talk on how to work with a range of technologies, like blockchain and AI, she emphasized that the focus needs to be on the people using them, to “design security with the human in mind,” as well as to integrate them into one’s business. “People expect it,” she said. However, she noted, “You have to make sure you have the right strategies in place; you can’t ‘lift and shift.’”

In addition to offering guidance around domain names, segmentation and incident response playbooks, Payton shared some of her striking predictions for 2020—among them that the blockchain will be cracked and that AI-powered bots will adapt and evolve to commit cybercrimes without human intervention.

Other experts provided their perspectives on the theme of emerging technologies throughout the two-day event, as well as cyber threat intelligence, leadership, risk, compliance and data analytics, during presentations offered through the conference’s educational track.

ISACA Board Director Asaf Weisberg discussed the potential for cyber threats to have severe impact on industrial control systems (ICS) in his presentation, “Illuminating the CISO’s ICS Blind Spot.” Citing disastrous examples of these kinds of cyberattacks on a train system in Denmark and a hotel in Austria, he noted that “not-so-sophisticated attacks can shut down whole systems,” and made a case for the CISO to be able to take control of all systems.

Attendees also had the opportunity for hands-on learning through the conference’s Geek Street offerings, including lessons on IoT hacking from Dustin Brewer, ISACA principal futurist, and the CSX Cyber Hunt, a live competition hosted by Frank Downs, ISACA’s director of cybersecurity practices, in which participants could race against each other to respond to attacks while conducting a penetration test.

Closing keynote speaker Jamie Bartlett, senior fellow and former director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos, explored how targeted, customized and data-driven messages will continue to play a huge role in influencing our decisions, including in how we vote—and likely reach people through their IoT devices, such as their smart fridges. He walked through the vast world of the deep web and dark web and both the positive and negative uses, including in applications that protect journalists and whistleblowers as well as for more nefarious activity, like selling dangerous drugs.

He warned that “criminals are thinking in the same way you are,” noting that hackers are using machine learning and that “crime is the next industry to be automated.” However, he ended on a hopeful note, stressing that these technologies also provide “an amazing set of opportunities.” This could entail building in more transparency into how people are targeted, including adding every political advertisement into a database that tracks which populations they have reached.

Following the close of the conference, the conversations continued at a dynamic SheLeadsTech panel discussion of women leaders in tech hosted by the ISACA New York Metropolitan Chapter, with the theme, “Women Leading with Impact – I am Fearless, Innovative and Inspiring.” Ginger Spitzer, executive director of ISACA’s One in Tech Foundation, and Alisha Wenc, program director for the foundation, offered the group an update on the SheLeadsTech program and its recent Tech Workforce 2020 survey findings, and the priorities of the foundation in the coming year.

They then opened the floor to the panelists Radhika Bajpai, Medha Bhalodkar, Chloe Demrovsky, Jennifer Kamrowski, Jessica Robinson and Michelle Schaap, and moderator Johna Till Johnson, who dived into topics around the qualities that make a good leader, the difference between mentors and sponsors, and breaking through barriers.

Schaap noted that when facing a situation at work that is holding them back, “Half of life is showing up. Look for other avenues or diagonals, and show yourself to others beyond your boss.” And for those who have pushed through barriers to achieve career success, Kamrowski offered a powerful reminder: “When you get to the top, send the elevator back down” to lift other women.

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