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Cybersecurity Buffet with Diversity on the Menu

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Published on Thursday, 26 September 2019

In 1986, two programmers, Basit Farooq Alvi and Amjad Farooq Alvi, started receiving phone calls from all over the world. Angry phone calls, from angry IBM PC users demanding that the brothers disinfect their machine from a virus that was slowing down the floppy disk drive.

The brothers claimed that the virus, called Brain, was a copyright measure gone wrong, designed to protect their own software from piracy. They even included their contact details in the code. Whatever their intention, Brain infected some 20,000 computers and is today regarded as the first PC virus.

While intrepid PC owners of the mid-1980s were able to disassemble the Brain virus manually, it is easy today to feel helpless in the face of the enormity of the cybersecurity threat. Alongside the technical challenges, the legal, ethical, social, economic and regulatory issues touch our lives in ways that no single expert or field of experts could address.

This is why EU Cybersecurity Competence Network Concordia has brought together 55 partners, including SnT, to tackle cybersecurity from every perspective. Through Concordia, people from all professions and backgrounds – IT researchers from industry and academia, engineers, lawyers, economists, investors, psychologists, policymakers and more – are pulling together to address the threat to our digital sovereignty.

On 16 and 17 October, Concordia is coming to Luxembourg. Its very first Open Doors event will welcome all cybersecurity stakeholders in Europe. “We want to learn more about what people want from a Cybersecurity Competence Network,” says SnT researcher Dr Antonio Ken Iannillo, who is coordinating the event. 'Everyone that works in cybersecurity in Europe is a stakeholder in Concordia, and they are all invited.'

This all-you-can-eat cybersecurity buffet will present the services Concordia has on offer. These range from professional training and information sharing to support cybersecurity start-ups entering the market. Leading experts will also brief attendees on the current state of cybersecurity, from legal, economic, industrial and intelligence perspectives.

'Most importantly, we want people to understand that to tackle the cybersecurity threat, we have to be united,' says Iannillo. 'At the moment, there are lots of good things going on in Europe, but our work is very fragmented. We want to bring together people from diverse backgrounds to innovate together.'

Diversity is the keyword here, with inclusivity high on Concordia’s list of areas to improve. 'We want to make the most of our collective strengths, and we can’t do that if we’re all from the same background, thinking in the same ways,' says Iannillo. “For example, women are underrepresented in cybersecurity, so at the Open Door event, we will be launching our Women in Cybersecurity Manifesto – a series of actions organisations should take to promote workforce diversity.”

Concordia’s network of partners already covers 19 countries, and at the Open Door Iannillo hopes to welcome stakeholders from every EU member state. 'I hope they will come, I hope they will enjoy Luxembourg, and I hope that SnT will be a perfect host for them.' In Iannillo, Concordia has the perfect ambassador to promote its inclusive approach.

SnT is turning 10! We’ve come a long way since launching our activities in 2009. Stay tuned for a year full of celebrations, cutting-edge research, and new milestones.