Cybersecurity ‘Moonshot’ Plan to Head to Trump in November

Evan Vucci/AP File Photo

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An advisory group shared broad principles of the moonshot plan, but no details, Thursday.

A government advisory group plans to forward a plan to President Donald Trump in November for how to make the internet and devices connected to it substantially more secure than they are today.

The panel is calling the cybersecurity project a “moonshot,” because the members believe making the internet fundamentally more secure can be as transformative as NASA’s 1969 Apollo mission.

Details about how we get from here to there are far from clear, however.

The subcommittee that’s working on the “moonshot action plan” has been meeting twice a week since February and has met with 13 subject matter experts, according to Mark McLaughlin, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks, who’s a co-chair of the project.

The first of those subject matter experts were not focused on cybersecurity, McLaughlin said, because the panel wanted to gather foundational principles for moonshot-like initiatives from other fields. Examples include the Apollo mission itself, the creation of the internet, the Human Genome Project and an Obama-era program to advance brain science.

The panel, which is co-chaired by Peter Altabef, CEO of the IT firm Unisys, is part of the president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. It includes about 20 members from government, academia and industry, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin and Altabef outlined five key principles during Thursday’s meeting that will inform the final report.

  1. The status quo is unsustainable.
  2. We need to be bolder and move beyond incremental cybersecurity fixes.
  3. Because the status quo is unsustainable, we need a new approach that includes “a more aspirational national vision for cybersecurity.”
  4. “We need to foster stronger whole-of-nation action.”
  5. While the moonshot is a long-term project, it can create immediate and near-term benefits.

The Homeland Security Department’s top cybersecurity and infrastructure protection official Chris Krebs praised the moonshot effort at the end of Thursday’s meeting.

“Alone we’re going to fail,” he said. “Together, collectively, we can achieve the security outcome we need.”