Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving investments from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) science and technology directorate (S&T) with the goal of enhancing security and resiliency in public safety, transportation and communications, according to William N. Bryan, acting under secretary of S&T, who delivered the opening-day keynote speech at the 2019 ISC West conference in Las Vegas.
Before talking risk management and security in the digital age, Bryan took a moment to address what he called the elephant in the room. “What’s going on at the department? We are all actors. We have more actors in the DHS right now than Hollywood does, but rest assured that with the outgoing or incoming leadership, the country is in good hands. Trust me when I tell you the nation is in good hands.”
Recognizing that technology continues to fuel risks, Bryan applauded the efforts of all the risk managers in the room and talked about the need for collaboration between government and industry if we are to advance security in the digital age.
“On my desk in my office right now, there is a coffee cup that is web enabled so that I can set the temperature of my coffee from my phone. How did I live without that for 60 years?” Bryan joked.
All kidding aside, more and more people are embracing the interconnected world, which has the potential for both good and harm.
“How does one sort out truth from reality? There is a lot of the turmoil inside our country that is being generated from outside of the US,” Bryan said, noting that fewer people are taking the time to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.
As a result, rapid innovation, threat changes and the need to respond immediately are the challenges that have driven change at the department. Whether it’s drones or security cameras, technology has the potential for good, but “if you can see it, someone else can tap into your system. Things like communications and transportation are driven by AI, but other people are not looking at it for the good of mankind. They are looking to take it over,” Bryan said.
“Security mitigations should be developed with technology. And we are seeing the consequences of when security becomes an afterthought, it is difficult to retrofit, and we have got to do a better job. Rapid innovation and security is a shared responsibility.”
In closing, Bryan recognized that the paradigm has shifted. “Government needs to tap into industry, and we need to create an environment that entices industry to work with us.”