Bennett on cybersecurity: ‘We want networks to compensate for errors in judgment’



Internet policy expert Shane Tews

In the latest High Tech Forum podcast, Richard Bennett sat down with Shane Tews, chief policy officer at 463 Communications, a firm that advises high-tech organizations on Internet policy. Tews also works on cybersecurity issues at the American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy. Tews has dealt with Internet security and domain issues as VP of global policy for Verisign, and she’s currently vice-chair at the board of directors of the Internet Education Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes a decentralized global Internet.

Bennett and Tews discussed the ongoing problem of cybersecurity. One of the problems, Bennett said, is that although the industry knows what a “security breach” looks like, it’s increasingly difficult to figure out what true security looks like. “Security means that I can share information with the people I want to share it with,” Bennett said. “So it’s really a question of trust.” But how do people know who to trust, and what happens if people realize their assessment is wrong? “The biggest security vulnerability anyone has, is you have decided to trust someone who is not as trustworthy as you thought they were. People are always surprising us with how clever they are, and always disappointing us with how devious they are.”

“The question is, once you’ve decided to share some information with someone that you thought was trustworthy and it turns out they’re not, how do you get it back? How do you revoke the trust?” It’s impossible to get the information back, he said. So much of the world’s network security problems are due to human nature. “We want networks to compensate for errors in judgment that we make because we’re human and we’re flawed,” Bennett said. “We don’t really know the things that we think we know.”

Bennett and Tews also discussed beacons, which let retailers map your movements in a store using your mobile device. Using beacon technology, retailers can determine which customers are interested in which products — and whether a store needs to update its inventory if, for instance, a customer stops in front of an aisle but moves on without picking anything up.

Web beacons re-advertise items people have looked at online. If you buy something on Amazon, a few minutes later they’re pitching you a similar product on different sites, Bennett said. A response by Tews shows how effective Web beacons can be: “As an avid shopper, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” she told Bennett. “I looked at a pair of shoes and they’ve been following me for weeks. I might buy them just because I’m tired of looking at them.”