Cybersecurity requires more than just technology

Cybersecurity is increasingly supported by artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, but humans are still required to interpret the data, federal agency data officers said at a recent AFCEA Bethesda panel.

The amount of data generated by AI and machine learning cybersecurity tools is staggering, panelists said. Those automated tools that are tackling repetitive monitoring work are producing bytes by the trillion.

Even at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "we're bringing in terabytes of log data per day, and we're not a particularly large agency," said Adrian Monza, USCIS deputy chief information security officer and chief security architect. "You have to have data scientists" to make sense of it, he added.

Ronald Thompson, chief data officer at NASA, said that data analysts have to ask "why" of the data, "not just follow a rote script, not just check off a compliance box." That kind of questioning, he said, leads to a discovery of "things we didn't even think of" in the agency's operations.

The idea that people, not technology, are the fulcrum of agency cybersecurity is not a new one, but it is a constant, according to panelists.

NASA has embedded a cybersecurity crew in the development stages of its Artemis Moon-to-Mars mission, Thompson said. The developers will be involved in "baking in" cybersecurity along the entire path of the mission's operations. The program aims to have an astronaut on the moon by 2024 and develop sustainable technologies that can then be used for a later manned mission to Mars.

Thompson told FCW after his remarks that there are "a couple" of cybersecurity operators involved in the mission so far, but more will be added.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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