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Cybersecurity experts come together for ASU symposium


Tina Thorstenson ASU Chief Information Security Officer CISO

Tina Thorstenson, ASU chief information security officer, speaks at the Symposium on Information Assurance Research and Education on Friday, Oct. 21.

October 28, 2016

Academic and industry cybersecurity experts came from across Arizona to attend Arizona State University's second annual Symposium on Information Assurance Research and Education on Friday, Oct. 21.

The symposium was hosted by the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics, a principal center within ASU’s Global Security Initiative. More than 20 separate organizations were represented at the event at the Skysong ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, discussing case studies, best practices and new research into keeping an organization's information secure.

Nadya Bliss, the director of ASU’s Global Security initiative, welcomed participants to the event with enthusiasm for her craft.

“I don’t know if there was ever a more exciting time to be a computer scientist, a time when computer science had and could have this much impact on pretty much everything,” she said.

Main speakers at the event included Bliss; Gail-Joon Ahn, director of the GSI’s Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics; and Tina Thorstenson, the chief information security officer for ASU.

Industry and government speakers included Paul Black, the director of Security Engineering and Security Operations for Allstate; Brad Wardman, the lead data scientist for PayPal; Special Agent Erin Gibbs, currently assigned to the FBI’s Phoenix Division; and Emad Almashakbeh, the senior team lead for the Cyber Security Operation Center for Charles Schwab, Inc.

A common theme among speakers was the need to work collaboratively to solve problems.

“Can we do it alone?” asked Bliss of solving “wicked problems”, or complex interconnected problems that seem impossible to solve, like climate change or cybersecurity. “Absolutely not, we need all other disciplines.”

Thorstenson talked about her experience at ASU and what it’s like running the internet infrastructure for what she calls a “medium-sized city,” but also referenced the need to build partnerships outside her office for ultimate effectiveness.

"Early on our strategy was to create an environment where departments from across ASU felt that we could collaborate on solutions to address a variety of security concerns,” she said in an interview, expanding on the point she made in her talk.

“We have found that creating this culture has allowed us to focus on accomplishing the mission and objectives of the university by efficiently and proactively responding to concerns as they arise."

Another theme was the trend toward automating processer where it’s possible to do so, but to not skimp on the people necessary for non-automatable positions.

“Cybersecurity is a people problem,” Bliss said.

At the end of the conference portion, attendees were also invited to review posters on research projects from ASU students and faculty. Presentations ranged from investigating automated threat intelligence to social media influence analytics to telephone phishing attempts.

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