Conferences You Should Know About: A Recap of ICCS 2018

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For bonus points, they also had good snacks.
Writer Emily W.
January 18, 2018

Emily serves as the VP of Research at Terbium Labs. With a background in International Relations, Emily alternates between quiet rants about Russian politics and foreign policy, while crafting blog posts about the realities of the Dark Web (hint: red rooms aren't real).

A few of us from Terbium Labs spent last week in New York at the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS). Hosted every eighteen months, and run as a partnership between Fordham University and the FBI, ICCS brings together representatives from government, law enforcement, and the private sector to discuss the cyber security issues impacting the security community, both in our home countries and internationally.

The conference amassed a range of distinguished speakers, from FBI Director Christopher Wray and former CIA Director John O. Brennan, to Cyrus Vance, the District Attorney of New York County and Erkki Koort, the Deputy Secretary General for Internal Security Policy from Estonia. The breakout sessions included reviews of investigations (including Operation Bayonet, the coordinated takedown of Alphabay and Hansa), panels on defense and insider risk, and a series of discussions on the ongoing challenges around encryption.

The honest, open pragmatism of its participants set this conference apart from many other conferences. Refreshingly, the conference had only a handful of vendors, and was largely absent the pitches you would expect halfway through presentations at a standard industry conference. Instead, ICCS provided a foundation for collaborative conversations and constructive connections. Progress is made when personal relationships get people in the room, solving a problem together. ICCS made that possible.

ICCS felt like a place to build relationships. In a world of solutions and grandstanding about the realities of security threats, cyber and otherwise, ICCS fostered conversations where groups openly shared examples of when collaboration worked to solve a tangible problem—when an investigation could only go but so far without help and when taking a chance on information sharing made a meaningful difference. This conference didn’t just reiterate the need to collaborate, it showed what can happen if you collaborate well.

So often in security people or organizations overstate a threat to motivate their audience. ICCS was a break from the fear-driven pitching, a respite from the world of unnecessarily complicated threats. The challenges we face in the security community are difficult enough—ICCS demonstrated that the industry can do better, can be better, if we spend more time getting in a room to solve problems together and a little less time trying to pad in fear.

Fordham University and the FBI make for a powerful duo, bringing in representatives of over 48 countries, the largest international spread the conference has seen so far. We at Terbium Labs hope to see that international diversity, and more diversity in general, better displayed the speakers selected for the conference’s next iteration. This year’s speakers were not a clear representation of the community, largely absent female speakers or speakers of color. To their credit, the conference organizers were genuinely open to feedback on the makeup of the speakers, and on the makeup of the conference. We’re hopeful that the 2019 conference will reflect some of that feedback, and better capture the mission of ICCS—to bring together voices from a range of communities and backgrounds, to get people in the room, solving problems together.

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