Keynote: Christopher Painter, Coordinator for Cyber Issues, U.S. Department of State (Summary)

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Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Summary by Kelley Misata

As Christopher Painter, Coordinator for Cyber Issues within the US Department of State, began his keynote address to the CERIAS Symposium audience he humorously admitted, "Today I’m flying without a net", a PowerPoint presentation net that is. This set the tone for an informal and informative discussion about the changing threat landscape in cyberspace.

In the early 1990s Christopher Painter began his federal career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles; a time when most people were not that interested in cyber crime and the issues we are facing today where unimaginable. These issues weren’t on the forefront of most people’s minds which provided Mr. Painter an opportunity to dive in and get involved at all levels of cyber investigations happening at the time. Mr. Painter led some of the early and most infamous cyber crime cases including the prosecution of Kevin Mitnick; one of the most wanted cyber criminals in the United States.

Through his work leading case and policy discussions of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the US Department of Justice, Mr. Painter has become a leading expert in international cyber issues. However, through this impressive journey he shared with the CERIAS audience, one of the most marked times during his career was with President Obama in 2009. Reminding the audience of the campaign hacking incident that raised the awareness of cyber threats to the office of the President, Mr. Painter discussed how the shift in focus on cyber issues was starting to occur. Now charged with identifying the gaps in national cyber policies, Mr. Painter led a research initiative which resulted in over 60 interviews engaging individuals from government, private industry, academia and civic society the results of this study became the premise for President Obama’s landmark speech on cyber security in May 2009.

Over the past 5 years the conversations in cyber security have evolved dramatically. Initially these conversations were so highly technical in nature that government officials handed them to the technical community to find the solutions. Today, with cyber issues expanding beyond domestic boundaries it was quickly realized that in order for solutions to be sustainable they needed the "push" of the senior policy makers and CEOs from the private sectors. As Mr. Painter stated, "We have come a long way even though the challenges continue to mount, we need to remember we still have a long way to go."

Today, the cyber security threat landscape has changed from the days of the "lone gunman hackers" to the now organized, transnational groups. Cyber security professionals are facing mounting challenges in international laws, forensic processes and the introduction of new actors in the arena of bad guys. However, reflecting back again to President Obama’s 2009 speech on cyber security, Mr. Painter recall’s the President reference to the “economic threat of cyber crime”; an important distinction from merely addressing cyber crime as a security threat to identifying cyber crime as an economic threat to the country.

Public awareness is changing and so are the conversations within the U.S. government. Remembering President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, Mr. Painter remarked, “this was to a national audience who are not cyber folks - it is another great example of how the cyber issues have transitioned to be government issues.” This landmark speech resulted in a new sergeant of collaboration and coordinating among government agencies; "This is a big shift in how these groups are running interagency meetings as there is a new commonality and purpose to these issues."

Looking toward the future, world will continue to grabble with the constantly changing cyber threat landscape and the equitably of these issues in the physical world. These are global challenges globally. As result, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Painter and his team are bringing technical information and training to over 100 countries; working to help technologically advancing countries to mitigate the increasing and complex cyber threats around the world. Concurrently, they are evaluating key policies issues including 1. international security - the US has taken the lead in establishing an international law through systems that build confidence in transparency; 2. cyber security due-diligence-challenging the international community to continue to develop national policies, build institutions and foster the due diligence process; 3. identification cyber crimes; 4. internet governance - through existing technical organizations and a multi-stakeholder approach; and 5. internet freedom - principles around openness and transparency online.

As the audiences starts to process this incredible professional journey along with the changing landscape in cyber space, Mr. Painter closed his keynote address illustrating the efforts him and his team in working closely with inter-agencies within the US government, private sectors and academia around the world. Also, actively conducting important dialogues and advancing the key cyber issues with governments in Brazil, South Africa, Korea, Japan and Germany to name a few; bringing the issues of cyber security strategies, the changing landscape and key policy issues to these emerging countries.

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