Don’t be the next Solarwinds. A talk with Samantha Schwartz - Ascent Conference

Don’t be the next Solarwinds. A talk with Samantha Schwartz

December 2020 saw the exposure of the largest, most sophisticated, and stealth cyberattack seen to-date. SolarWinds was subjected to an attack that reportedly compromised 18,000 of its clients, including at least nine federal agencies. Alarmingly the hack went undetected for several months. Its sheer size and magnitude mean that it may take years to secure the networks again. But this was only the latest in a string of high-profile cyber attacks to have hit headlines in recent years. In 2017 more than 60 countries were overwhelmed by the NotPetya ransomware outbreak, a veritable cybersecurity horror story that piqued the interest of Samantha Schwartz. ‘I found it so creepy‘ says Schwartz ‘everybody is linked in cyber, whether it’s the consumer, the enterprise or government‘.  It was this connection that drove her to join the ranks of the information security community. 

Samantha Schwartz is a reporter for CyberSecurity Dive and will be moderating a panel discussion at Spotlight On Cybersecurity: SolarWinds deep dive: what happened, and how to prevent it at your organization. We recently caught up with Samantha about what is top of mind in cybersecurity.

What are your biggest cybersecurity concerns right now?

“Whenever a major hack happens, that’s what sort of takes the forefront.” Right now the buzzwords are supply chain security, supply chain attacks, and ransomware. There is also a growing interest in information sharing because of recent attacks. As an aside note, Samantha expresses a personal interest in private and public sector cooperation, information sharing, and any reluctance associated with it.

What got you excited about Cybersecurity in the first place? 

Samantha first started working for CyberSecurity Dive in June 2017 “NotPetya was my introduction to cybersecurity. As a newbie, I found it so creepy. Everybody is linked in cyber, whether it’s the consumer or whether it’s the enterprise or whether it’s the government.” Mentioning the Equifax, Uber cases, and other giant breaches, Samantha ponders “it sounds so bad because it’s exciting and it’s exciting for maybe the wrong reasons”. Yet she stresses that this excitement is out of character describing herself as “a very anxious person, I stick to the Great British Baking Show.” 

Has your role in cybersecurity led to changes in how you consume content? Has cybercrime affected you?

Samantha explains that she is increasingly suspicious of any online interactions. She reveals how she has been a victim of cybercrime “As a teenager” she explains,I paid a ransom because I was illegally streaming a video or a movie online. And it wasn’t even a new movie. It was very old. But I was so freaked out and I paid the ransom. As a cybersecurity reporter now, I look back on that and think, even then I was fairly well versed in online security and digital security. So I can’t imagine what it’s like for the average person.”  Now working in the field, Samantha has become particularly interested in the human aspect of cybersecurity as well as its danger “it doesn’t take much to cause so much damage.”

 With the fast growth in consumer data, is the role of cybersecurity becoming more important and prominent? 

“I do think security, in general, is top of mind, even for consumers, because of these giant breaches that we’re all being notified about” Samantha keeps a close ear to the ground when it comes to federal privacy law because she believes it plays an important role in privacy law. When it comes to data collection accountability, the question to ask companies is“do you even need half the data that you’re collecting? And more often than not, these companies are saying no, but we collect it” 

On the subject of private and public sector collaboration…

For Samantha Cybersecurity is a very obvious and clear gateway for the private and public sector to work together. She explains that often when we think about the private sector, we look at it with a critical eye because we expect companies to look out for themselves. “But cybersecurity is so different because of the value of information sharing… and how interwoven we are with the government, and what incentives and disincentives we have with working with one another”.

What are the three biggest aspects of your session that people can look forward to hearing about at Spotlight On Cybersecurity?

“This session will highlight how not to become the next conduit for an adversarial nations state attack…because it could happen to anybody.”

Samantha Schwartz will join an expert panel of speakers that will be live on April 7th at the Spotlight On Cybersecurity. Join us to find out about the cutting-edge trends in Cybersecurity. Save your spot today!

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