Security is a hot topic, but its not one that is easy to get your arms around. Our increasingly global and interconnected society is forcing us to think of security, whether of information or infrastructure, in entirely new ways. Scholars and security experts came together to address a wide range of global security concerns at the Global Security and Enterprise Resilience conference sponsored by the Center for International Business and Research (CIBER) at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business on April 12 and 13, 2007.
Alfred Berkeley III, chairman and chief executive officer of Pipeline Financial Group, Inc., and Pipeline Trading Systems LLC, is steeped in these problems as a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). Berkeley, keynote speaker for the conferences Thursday sessions, describes himself as an evangelist for issues of global security and particularly for the work of NIAC, which advises the president on ways to protect U.S. infrastructure. This is a particularly difficult proposition because 95 percent of the nations infrastructure water and electric utilities, telecommunications companies are privately owned. These infrastructure companies are interested in competing effectively, and somewhat less interested in cooperating to react quickly and effectively to security threats.
Berkeley and his compatriots at NIAC wrestle with issues that are tremendously complex. For example, the group recently considered the avian flu: how do you distribute a limited supply of flu vaccine to maximize the survival rate of a disease that kills more than half of the people who contract it? Its a complex problem with a lot of nuances, not amenable to sound bites of simple solutions. And a pandemic is easy to talk about, because there are no human actors and everybody is on the same side, said Berkeley.
After 9/11, the federal government invited organizations to share information about organizational weaknesses in order to help national security specialists develop effective counterterrorism strategies. But Berkeley found that few CEOs were willing to share information about vulnerabilities in their organizations because they feared such information would get out to their competitors, or subject their companies to additional regulations. To combat this problem, NIAC suggested that an exception be made to the Freedom of Information Act that would keep information about organizational vulnerabilities from being made available to the public.
While Berkeley focused on some of the security problems facing the United States, John Steinbrunner, professor of public policy and director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, painted a broad picture of the key international security issues requiring globally practiced oversight with rules and norms developed by consensus among nations. The rest of the days presenters addressed human behavior as it related to enterprise security, particularly cybersecurity; the effects of global terrorism on the corporate world; and business as war.
While topics from the Thursday sessions focused on issues pertaining to global security, Friday sessions focused on enterprise resilience. How can organizations manage risk, in an increasingly smaller and flatter world? How can organizations ensure regulatory compliance in a world of multiple standards, often driven by special interests or specific industry needs? What economic incentives are required to make information sharing desirable? On both Thursday and Friday, presentations were followed by lively and occasionally heated discussions.
Rebecca Winner, Senior Writer & Editor, Office of Marketing Communications
Photos by Lisa Helfert