Visible to the public Adoption of Cybersecurity Technology Workshop

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Adoption of Cybersecurity Technology Workshop


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The Special Cyber Operations Research and Engineering (SCORE) Subcommittee sponsored the 2015 Adoption of Cybersecurity Technology (ACT) workshop at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 3-5 March 2015. As a community, researchers and developers have produced many effective cybersecurity technology solutions that are not implemented for a variety of reasons. Many cybersecurity professionals believe that 80% of the current problems in cyberspace have known solutions that have not been implemented. In order to illuminate systemic barriers to adoption of security measures, the workshop focused specifically on countering the phishing threat and its aftermath. The vision for the workshop was to change business practices for adoption of cybersecurity technologies; expose developers, decision makers, and implementers to others’ perspectives; address the technology, process, and usability roadblocks to adoption; and build a Community of Interest (COI) to engage regularly.

This was the first in what is expected to be an annual workshop to address issues associated with barriers to adoption of cybersecurity technologies. The workshop, itself, however, was simply the kickoff activity for a sustained effort to implement cybersecurity technology solutions throughout the US Government. Workshop participants were primarily government personnel, with some individuals from Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), academia, and industry.


Figure 1: Overview of organizations participating in the ACT 2015 Workshop


There were four groups of attendees representing researchers and developers, decision-makers, implementers, and human behavior experts. Participants explored, developed, and implemented action plans for four use cases that addressed each of the four fundamental cybersecurity goals shown below: Device Integrity; Authentication and Credential Protection/Defense of Accounts; Damage Containment; and Secure and Available Transport, and how they are applied in the attack lifecycle. This construct provided the workshop with a framework that allowed participants to apply critical solutions specifically against the spear phishing threat.


Areas for Success

Figure 2: Key areas necessary for success



Figure 3: Mitigations Framework

Participants in the workshop identified systemic issues preventing the adoption of such solutions and suggested how to change business practices to enable these cybersecurity technology practices to be adopted. The agenda included briefings on specific threat scenarios, briefings on cohorts’ concerns to promote understanding among groups, facilitated sessions that addressed the four use cases, and the development of action plans to be implemented via 90 day spins.


The First Day established the framework for the remainder of the workshop. There were two introductory briefings that focused on the phishing threat, one classified and one unclassified.  The unclassified briefing “Phishing from the Front Lines” was presented by Matt Hastings, a Senior Consultant with Mandiant, a division of FireEye, Inc. Following a description of workshop activities, individuals associated with each of the four cohorts met to identify and then share the specific barriers to the adoption of cybersecurity technologies that they have experienced as developers, decision-makers, implementers, and human behavior specialists. After a working lunch that included a briefing on Secure Coding from Robert Seacord, Secure Coding Technical Manager at the Computer Emergency Response Team Division at the Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University (CERT/SEI/CMU), participants were briefed on NSA’s Integrated Mitigations Framework and the Use Case Construct and Descriptions that would form the basis of the remainder of the workshop.

On Day Two, after participants received their use case assignments based on their stated interests and their roles, Dr. Douglas Maughan, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate’s Cyber Security Division presented “Bridging the Valley of Death,” a briefing designed to help workshop participants identify how to overcome barriers to cybersecurity technology adoption. The first breakout session, Discovery, allowed participants to consider what technologies and/or best practices could be implemented over the next year. A lunchtime briefing on Technology Readiness Levels and the presentation of Success Stories by workshop participants, provided a good segue into the second breakout session, Formulation of Action Plans.

Dr. Greg Shannon, Chief Scientist of SEI/CMU, presented “Accelerating Innovation in Security and Privacy Technologies—IEEE Cybersecurity Initiative” to start Day Three. The third use case breakout session allowed use case participants to identify the next steps for implementation, after which all of the use cases presented their plans.

  • The Device Integrity group chose to implement two tools to address the threat of malicious, unauthorized access, selecting two government networks for deployment.
  • The Damage Containment group chose to assess user-system behavior by implementing a capability that enables the modeling and classification of user and systems behavior within the network and selected two academic institution networks for implementation.
  • The Defense of Accounts group chose to look at strategies for securing emails and will be deploying the selected technologies on two government networks.
  • The Secure and Available Transport group also focused on emails, selecting a technology for deployment on one government network that is already at Technology Readiness Level 7/8 and is operational in a limited environment. 


Use case participants identified plans for each of the four 90-day Spins that they will brief to the ACT Organizing Committee and threat analysts who will assess progress against the goals. The Spin reports will address successes, challenges, and the specific steps taken to overcome roadblocks to the realization of the adoption of cybersecurity technologies. All of the Spin meetings will include updates from those responsible for implementing the chosen technology as well as use case team breakout sessions after the presentations. The Organizing Committee is now working on the specific logistics details for the four Spins. Spin 1 will be a half day event held in the DC area during the week of 15 June; Spin 2 will be a day-long meeting held within a few hours of the DC area sometime in mid-September; the location of the Spin 3 meeting is still to be determined, but it will be a half day event held in early December. The final spin will coincide with the second ACT workshop and will be held at Sandia Labs in mid-March 2016.  

The participants were fully engaged in the two and a half day workshop and demonstrated commitment to both the concept of the workshop and to the follow-up activities. In providing feedback, 33 of the 35 respondents found value in attending, and 32 of the 35 would be interested in participating in the next workshop.





The goal over the next year is to strengthen government networks against spear phishing attacks by applying the selected technologies. Through the identification and subsequent removal of barriers to the adoption of these specific technologies, the use cases will identify ways to reduce obstacles to implementing known solutions to known problems, thus enabling more research to bridge the valley of death. Although the activity over the next year is tactical in nature, it provides an underlying strategy for achieving broader objectives as well as a foundation enabling transition from addressing threats on a transactional basis to collaborative cybersecurity engagements. Ultimately, ACT will strengthen our nation’s ability to address cybersecurity threats and improve our ability to make more of a difference more of the time. 

(ID#: 15-5934)


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