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Emerging State and Homeland Security Issues: Discussion from the Fifth Cybersecurity and Technology Futures Event

July 24, 2019


Jion Yi

This event was the fifth in a series of events. The first focused on privacy, the second on systemic risk, the third on artificial intelligence, and the fourth on international threats. The next one will focus on crisis management and informatics. It will be on May 29 at 3pm in the Peterson Room in the Allen Library on the UW campus. The full schedule can be found here.

As technology develops and cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated, discussions must be had about the implications for national security infrastructure and public safety. It is especially crucial that all levels of government sectors—city, state, and federal alike—prepare ways to prevent and detect potential cyber threats, especially those targeting critical infrastructure, such as industrial control systems and election systems. For the fifth talk in Cybersecurity and Technology Futures series, Barrett Adams-Simmons, Regional Sector Outreach Coordinator at Department of Homeland Security; Ann Lesperance, Director of Northwest Regional Technology Center at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and The Honorable Gael Tarleton, Washington State Representative for the 36th Legislative District, gathered to discuss threats to the state and homeland security and potential future approach to defend from these threats. Professor Sara Curran of UW Jackson School of International Studies joined the panel as a moderator.

Barrett Adams-Simmons is Regional Sector Outreach Coordinator at Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She discussed physical threats to critical infrastructure, for example Industrial Control Systems, which are susceptible to malware attacks. She also discussed election infrastructure and suggested close cooperation among the state governments as a solution to ensure election security. She emphasized the importance of developing resilience against extremist threats. She stated her belief that cyberattacks must be taken just as seriously as other types of emergencies, such as natural disasters, and that policymakers need to have some knowledge in the workings of critical infrastructure and perhaps engage in cybersecurity emergency exercises, just as emergency exercises are conducted for earthquakes.

Ann Lesperance is Director of Northwest Regional Technology Center at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). She is also a faculty at Northeastern University, where she works on building security resilience program in urban informatics. She discussed resurgence of interest in biodefense and biosecurity. She stated that the future of cyber defense, in her opinion, is the regionalization of security teams and resources to ensure thorough prevention and prompt response to cyber threats. She also argued that policymakers must consider the issue of cyberattacks as seriously as other security emergencies, like natural disasters. She gave words of advice to those who aspire to be professionals in the field of cybersecurity: one does not need to be a computer scientist to contribute to the field of cybersecurity. In fact, the field of cybersecurity has often deemphasized the priority of policy, but needs more young people to join government agencies and non-governmental organizations to help policymaking efforts on cybersecurity issues.

The Honorable Gael Tarleton is a Washington State Representative for the 36th Legislative District. She was also a Port of Seattle Commissioner and is a former senior defense analyst at the Pentagon and spent over eight years working at the University of Washington before joining the Washington State Legislature. From her legislative experience, she voiced her concern that state and local governments do not have efficient communication systems in place to respond to cyber threats, and that isolated state networks are especially vulnerable to the threats. She pointed out that many of the challenges are related to the fact that the state leaderships are organized in different ways. Therefore, it is essential to initiate and maintain an efficient and multilateral communication among the local, state, and federal level governments. When asked how cybersecurity policymaking can improve in the future, she stated her opinion that the legislators must spend greater time conducting research on the policy subject through informative conversations with non-partisan professional staff and overcome the technical barriers to properly sort out policy priorities.

The talk was the fifth in a series of talks on Cybersecurity and Technology Futures. The next talk is on May 29, 2019 at 3pm in the University of Washington’s Allen Library’s Peterson Room. The speakers include: Megan Finn, Assistant Professor, UW Information School; Curry Mayer, Emergency Manager, City of Bellevue; Kate Starbird, Assistant Professor, UW Human Centered Design and Engineering. UW Information School Lecturer Annie Searle will moderate.

The speaker series is sponsored by the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, Information School, and Women’s Center with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

This event and publication were made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.