Governance

Manhattan Project for Cybersecurity R&D

Employing ISAO to Get Researchers to Collaborate
Manhattan Project for Cybersecurity R&D
Samuel Visner

Citing as inspiration the Manhattan Project, in which the United States secretly developed the atomic bomb during World War II, Sam Visner is leading an effort to get cybersecurity researchers to collaborate in developing new ways to defend cyberspace.

Visner, vice president and general manager for cybersecurity at the business consultancy IFC International, says the initiative would employ an information security analysis organization, or ISAO, as the vehicle to get researchers in academia, industry and government to collaborate on cybersecurity research and development.

President Obama in February issued an executive order promoting ISAOs as organizations designed to accommodate collaboration among businesses and the government in sharing cyberthreat information (see President Obama Grapples with Cyber Challenges).

"It's an extraordinary American advantage, our ability - when we want to, when we're inclined to - to collaborate, build collaborative structures and collaborative solutions," Visner says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. "During the Second World War, the Manhattan Project, although under very strict security guidelines, too, [brought together] a very wide-ranging community of people, and a broad range of disciplines."

That speedy, collaborative approach, he says, can be repeated in regards to cybersecurity R&D.

In this interview, which previews one of the topics he'll discuss as a speaker at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit in National Harbor, Md., June 8 to 11, Visner discusses:

  • The need for a cybersecurity R&D ISAO. The IT security research community lacks an overall understanding of what research is being conducted to defend against cyberthreats, he says. "There is a lot of really good thinking that's taking place, but not everybody is aware of that thinking, and we're not necessarily in a position to apply the benefits of that thinking."
  • How the cybersecurity R&D ISAO would function.
  • The overall need to promote collaboration to better defend against cyberthreats, not just for R&D. "There simply are not enough good people doing this work, and I don't know that we're training them quickly enough," Visner says. "So, if we don't a better job of collaboration, and we don't accelerate our implementations, we're going to be struggling in the future."

Visner manages ICF's cybersecurity business. Previously, he held leadership roles at CSC Global Cybersecurity, SAIC and the National Security Agency. An adviser to the U.S. national security community, Visner is an associate of the National Intelligence Council and a member of the Council on Technology and Innovation of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance as well as the INSA's executive committee and cyber council.




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