Cybersecurity

Symantec simulation could be a recruiting tool

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Symantec has been hosting cyber-readiness simulations for a couple of years, but this week's event in Washington, D.C., was the first the firm has held for federal executives with a workforce shortage in mind.

"People continue to be a significant issue in the industry," said Michael Garvin, a senior manager in Symantec's Information Security Services division. "We have a hard time turning out the numbers of people that we need. NSA [and] DOD continue to face a shortage, which is one of the reasons why we do this."

The cyber summit, held April 8-9, could serve as a recruiting tool for federal agencies and contractors, he said, noting that college students affiliated with the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security's National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education attended previous workshops.

The closed-door exercise brought together contractors and representatives of federal defense agencies in a test of cyberwarfare. Participants were tasked with infiltrating a country's oil and gas fields by attacking server infrastructure, stealing oil-field blueprints and disabling the field so that reserves could be tapped.

Garvin declined to elaborate on who attended other than to say that a Booz Allen Hamilton team won the exercise and that representatives from a number of large contractors and some of the larger agencies were present.

The simulation coincided with a new Symantec report that found government agencies continue to be a significant and increasing target of cyberattacks, Garvin said. Sixteen percent of spear phishing attacks in 2013 were aimed at the government -- more than any other sector, according to the report.

The interconnectedness of government agencies and private contractors means "oftentimes one will be targeted as potentially a pathway into the other one," he said.

Public- and private-sector cybersecurity experts are becoming more comfortable with participating in simulations like Symantec's in part because the cost of not collaborating can be high, Garvin said.

"A number of organizations are understanding that if they don't begin sharing this information, they're just as blind as everybody around them," he said. "So the more data that's being shared between organizations, then it gives you a better chance to respond to things quickly."

Another possible incentive to share information came April 10 when the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission issued a statement clarifying that "properly designed sharing of cybersecurity threat information is not likely to raise antitrust concerns."

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Follow him on Twitter: @snlyngaas

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