Security Congress Kickoff: Creating a Safe World

Squared is thereThe spotlight was on safety at the kickoff this morning of (ISC)² Security Congress 2019, taking place this week in Orlando. First, (ISC)² CEO David Shearer talked about the role that association members have in protecting society through their cybersecurity work.

Then, Capt. Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot of flight 1549, which landed on the Hudson River in January 2009, related the events of that day and how he and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, safely landed their U.S. Airways Airbus with everyone aboard surviving the event.

Shearer spent much of his kickoff address on the importance of abstracting what cybersecurity professionals do from the very users they are protecting. “Our customers’ users simply want to be able to do their jobs and live their lives and passions unencumbered by cybersecurity,” he told the gathered crowd of attendees. This year’s Security Congress has attracted 2,500 professionals to the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort and features more than 250 speakers.

Shearer’s point was that users shouldn’t have to think or worry about cybersecurity. Cybersecurity professionals need to be able to do their work without interrupting users; otherwise, users tend to find ways to circumvent security, which produces the exact opposite effect of what cyber professionals are trying to accomplish.

Drawing parallels between what cyber professionals do and how Walt Disney runs its theme parks and shows, he noted that a lot of behind-the-scenes work has to take place for the magic to happen. When people visit the parks and see the shows, they are not thinking about what goes on behind the curtain, but what they are experiencing. Such is the work of cybersecurity professionals – to toil behind the scenes for the safety of users, their systems and their organizations.

Quoting the rock band Rush, who in turn was quoting Shakespeare, Shearer said: “All the world's indeed a stage / And we are merely players / Performers and portrayers / Each another's audience / Outside the gilded cage.’’

Drawing another parallel with the work of cyber pros, Shearer said: “As cybersecurity pros, our goal isn’t the limelight but all the world is indeed our stage.”

Always be Learning

After his address, Shearer ceded the stage to the “Miracle on the Hudson” hero, Sullenberger, who kept the audience engrossed as he related the events of Jan. 15, 2019, when he and Skiles had to ditch on the Hudson, saving all 150 passengers and crew.

While no one ever really prepares for an event like that, Sullenberger says, he attributed his ability to communicate with his co-pilot and make the right decisions under such stressful circumstances to the training and discipline he has received through a lifetime of learning. That training and discipline came not only from the values his parents passed on to him, Sullenberger said, but also from his experience in the Air Force Academy and his work as a fighter pilot and commercial airline captain.

He challenged attendees to challenge themselves: “Never stop investing in yourselves. Never stop learning.” As the pace of change accelerates, he said, “most of us cannot get through a lifetime with only one set of skills.” He urged attendees to reinvent themselves and figure out how to innovate.

Sullenberger also talked about the importance of understanding the reality around your in order to make the best possible decisions. “As citizens, we have an obligation to be not just literate but scientifically literate. When we make important decisions, we must make them based facts, not fears and certainly not untruths.”

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