Bringing cybersecurity to the watercooler

Melissa Hathaway urges simple, straight talk on cybersecurity

It’s time for the United States to have a conversation in plain language about threats against computer networks and systems, the Obama administration’s former acting senior director for cyberspace said today.

“We can no longer accept a polite conversation; we need to discuss what’s happening to our public- and private-sector networks and bring transparency to the problem,” said Melissa Hathaway, who last year led the Obama administration’s review of cyberspace policy.

Hathaway made the comments after receiving the annual McCurdy Award for vision in cybersecurity from the Internet Security Alliance for her work on that review. Hathaway stepped down from her position with the Obama administration last August and currently is president of Hathaway Global Strategies.

“A lot of important staff work has been done over the last several months, but in many ways I feel like we have lost the sense of urgency of the situation,” Hathaway said. “I think that broadly we need to have more of a national dialogue and sense of urgency, I’d like to see a lot more people bringing transparency to the problem,” she added later.


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Hathaway also urged mentor, educational, and internship programs for cybersecurity, and said public/private partnerships were needed to move towards enterprise solutions. She emphasized the need to build more trust between the public and private sectors.

Hathaway said it’s important that information about the cyber threat is communicated in simple language that’s easily understandable. “I say tell a simple story so people start to understand and raise awareness,” she said.

“We need to just have a lot more people outside of the Beltway talking about what’s happening, and what we’re going to do about it,” Hathaway said. “I think that really goes back to: you need to tell a simple story so that everybody can relate to it at the dinner table or at the water cooler.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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