How NSA Director Wants to Build an IoT Security Coalition

Admiral Michael Rogers is preparing a coalition of government, military and commercial interests to fight a global cyber-war if necessary.


BALTIMORE, Md.--The chief warrior in the U.S. battle against the world's cyber-bad guys is just as worried about having his personal data breached as any of us.

Also, like many of us, he admits to being a bit bewildered about how governments, enterprises and individuals can fend off insider attacks, DDoS events, zero-day exploits, malware and other security issues that have become as common as drinking water in this Age of Internet.

But Admiral Michael S. Rogers (at left in photo with Jeffrey Wells), chief of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, is convinced that through effective working partnerships among government agencies, the military, law enforcement and key players in the private sector, long-term solutions will be found in the ongoing efforts to secure personal and business data and keep it out of the hands of cyber-criminals.

Rogers on Oct. 29 addressed attendees at the two-day Cyber Maryland Conference here at the Baltimore Convention Center. About 1,000 stakeholders were registered. eWEEK was on hand both to cover the event and to moderate a panel discussion on Internet of things (IoT) security.

Because more than 250 companies and service providers are located in the Maryland-Virginia-Washington, D.C., region, it is fast becoming global ground zero for the cyber-security business.

Cyber Maryland Initiative Providing Leadership in Security Sector

Silicon Valley also has its indigenous security companies, but it also has so many other IT-related players that it simply cannot specialize the way Maryland can. Gov. Martin O'Malley, who also spoke at the Oct. 29-30 event, started the Cyber Maryland coalition initiative five years ago. Cyber Maryland promotes partnerships among government agencies, security software and services providers, educational institutions and security experts in an effort to drive innovation--and create jobs--in the sector.

"Securing the IoT is a huge issue for all of us," Rogers said during a fireside-type chat with conference co-organizers Darin Andersen, founder and chairman of the San Diego-based CyberTECH, and Jeffrey Wells, executive director of Cyber Development in Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development. "Literally every person on earth is a sensor. We have billions of devices. It's a daunting task.

"We talked about BYOD a year ago, and we're still talking about it. From a cyber-security perspective, that's a fundamental challenge--plus, it's a society issue. I don't think we fully understand this yet--the second and third order of effects [of securing the IoT], involving all this connectivity, all those devices and the public and the private interests. It brings amazing opportunities but also potential tremendous vulnerability. We've got to work our way through this," Rogers said.

Advantages of Having All Those Connected Devices Are Great

None of us is going to walk away from the conveniences these devices provide, Rogers said.

"People on average have three to five or more connected devices; we will see many more in the future. How are we going to make this work, how are we going to secure them all? That's for all of us to work toward," Rogers told the audience.

As for the ever-present threats posed by numerous malevalent forces around the world, Rogers acknowledged that there is much more work yet to be done, but he believes the cyber-force he is building at the federal and military levels is up to holding its own. Then he integrated into the talk a hot news issue -- the idea of the Ebola virus -- that provided more food for thought.

"What if we had an Ebola-like challenge in the Internet?" Rogers said. "Not something actually infectious, but what if we had something equivalent to that in digital form, that could replicate on a global scale, with the potential ability to impact our information flow? That's pretty amazing to me, but we've got to think about it."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...