By Sandy Moul | President, InfraGard San Diego Chair, InfraGard Pacific Region Presidents’ Summit
In late March of 2017, InfraGard San Diego hosted its third annual cyber symposium, Cyber 2027, in conjunction with the InfraGard Pacific Region Presidents’ Summit. The Presidents’ Summit, a day-and-a-half experience, is focused on chapter and professional development to enhance the success of InfraGard Member Alliances (IMAs).
Recognizing that representatives from chapters as near as Los Angeles and as far as Honolulu would be in attendance, InfraGard San Diego leaders aligned the timing of the Summit with their popular Cyber event, maximizing the travel investment for all attendees.
The goal of the Cyber series is to create an engaging platform for future-focused discussion that goes beyond the threats of today. And security professionals are responding favorably. Nearly 400 attended Cyber 2027 at Qualcomm HQ in San Diego on March 28. Speakers and panelists focused on the current and potential impact of artificial intelligence on counterterrorism and cybersecurity. “Our panel was made up of proven innovators from the San Diego region who are pushing the edge of cybersecurity and [are] highly knowledgeable about artificial intelligence,” said Sam “Rusty” Sailors, a member of the executive board of the San Diego chapter and a key planner of this event.
InfraGard San Diego leaders are unanimous in their belief that the right subject matter and the right speakers are the essential ingredients for a powerful conversation between public and private sector security stakeholders. With 16 critical infrastructure sectors impacted by cybersecurity issues, and expert predictions that by 2020 there will be 200 billion connected things, there is no question that cybersecurity is the right topic — and will be for some time to come.
Getting the right speakers and/or panelists is all about your network, according to Special Agent Parker Scott, private sector coordinator for FBI San Diego. “Take advantage of the expertise and connections of your chapter members,” Scott advises. “Whether you plan to find your speakers locally or fly them in, mine your members’ contacts and your own to identify candidates. You’ll be astounded by the caliber of expertise within and closely connected to InfraGard.”
The San Diego chapter has unique advantages when it comes to hosting a conversation on topics of national interest related to cybersecurity and other critical infrastructure threats. For starters, the city’s technology cluster has made the region a hub for innovation in converging and emerging industries. With established companies like Qualcomm, as well as innovative startups, San Diego firms are developing unique technologies with global impact in sectors including telecommunications, cybersecurity, connected devices, data analytics, health IT, bioinformatics, gaming and software as a service (SaaS). The region also represents a unique security environment with its large cluster of defense industrial base companies, multiple military bases, shared international borders, maritime environment, and a thriving tourism industry that fuels one of the nation’s largest Commercial Facilities sectors.
In addition, InfraGard San Diego has strong ties — and a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) — with critical partners, including the City of San Diego Office of Homeland Security and the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center. These connections have helped to establish a community of shared expertise — and shared responsibility — between public and private sector security professionals.
Matt Miller, private sector program manager at the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center and moderator of the panel discussion at Cyber 2027, underscores an important point: “InfraGard members are vetted. Our vetting process is important to law enforcement partners, and makes InfraGard a unique partner, no matter what part of the country you call home.”
While the tech environment and partner MOUs clearly position InfraGard San Diego to host top-notch cyber events, chapters without these assets can be equally successful in hosting meaningful dialogue between public and private sector leaders on a variety of security topics.
According to Sandy Moul, president of the San Diego chapter, “Threat landscapes and mitigation strategies are localized to each InfraGard chapter’s area of operation, but certain building blocks and best practices apply across the board,” she said. “With a laser focus on the member experience and content that is timely, compelling and relevant, every InfraGard chapter can create rich forums that foster essential collaboration between the public and private sectors.”
Events like the InfraGard San Diego Cyber 2027 Symposium represent the future of FBI engagement with the private sector. “These kinds of gatherings between the public and private sectors on topics of national importance are happening in pockets throughout the country and across InfraGard,” said Dave Miller, unit chief, Office of Private Sector. “Such conversations are vital in connecting emerging and established industries with FBI efforts to protect our nation’s economy and national security — and equally important in exposing and educating those of us in the public sector about the innovations these companies are driving.”
Tips for Successful InfraGard Chapter Events
(curated via interviews with San Diego Chapter leaders)
Select a timely, compelling and relevant topic.
Take advantage of your members’ networks to find interesting speakers; InfraGard members have impressive connections!
Begin promoting the event well in advance via multiple communication channels.
For panel discussions, choose a moderator who understands the topic and can keep the conversation flowing without getting too technical.
Invest time and energy in planning — the devil’s in the details.
Keep costs low, charge a modest fee, and attract corporate sponsors to help defray event costs.
Find the right venue (comfortable seats, good acoustics, A/V support, etc.).
Maintain a directory of venue options based on members’ networks and chapter sponsors.
Time it right; 9:00am to noon seems to work well for busy executives.
Wrap it up with a meaningful call to action or next steps.