Share This Page

Pittsburgh initiative wants city to own role as cybersecurity birthplace

| Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, 5:15 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Governor Tom Ridge talks to Mark Emery, of Emery Consulting LLC (left) and Michael Halperin, CEO of ApogeeIT Services after participating in a forum on the topic of cybersecurity during a day-long conference to talk about better coordinating the city’s role in fighting computer crimes on a national and international scale at Carnegie Mellon University, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Governor Tom Ridge addresses the audience on the topic of cybersecurity during a day-long conference to talk about better coordinating the city’s role in fighting computer crimes on a national and international scale at Carnegie Mellon University, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016.

There could not be a cyber 9/11 because no one possibly could claim to be surprised by an attack on the nation's critical infrastructure, former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Monday at Carnegie Mellon University.

“It should be no surprise to anybody that there's a digital war going on right now,” Ridge said. “It involves multiple actors: sovereign states, organized crime, hacktivists, etc. Under the worst of circumstances, I can't believe any company, organization or any level of government could plead surprise if it got hit.”

Ridge, who also was elected to two terms as Pennsylvania governor, appeared in Pittsburgh to speak at the Cyburgh, PA 2016 Initiative, a joint effort by the Pittsburgh Technology Council and CMU's Software Engineering Institute to promote the city as a cybersecurity leader. Ridge cited Pittsburgh's unique role in protecting against online attacks.

“This is a city and a region that has gone from analog to digital, from the 20th Century to the 21st Century, just in terms of its economic development, its priorities and the businesses it has developed,” Ridge said. “Because the city itself has undergone such a remarkable transformation ... you build on that foundation because it's pretty strong and it's pretty wide.”

While the region has developed unique cybersecurity resources, it still needs to gain national recognition as the nation's industry leader, organizers said. They capped paid registrations for the event at 240 people and had a wait list.

“Cybersecurity was born here,” Summer Fowler, an event organizer and technical director at the Software Engineering Institute's CERT, or computer emergency response team, said in an opening session. “So let's own that. This is our birthright.”

Local assets include CERT, CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris University and the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, a nonprofit information-sharing group that recently announced plans to expand in New York and Los Angeles, said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

“There is no better place in the country than Pittsburgh for this,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton, who advises the U.S. Attorney General on cyber issues. “Not only do we have the talent. Not only do we have the record. Not only do we have the tools. We have that secret je ne sais quoi about Pittsburgh that we're just a group of people that likes to work together.”

Even when he has access to the smartest people around the world, Alan Levine, Alcoa's chief information security officer, said he often finds the best ones in Pittsburgh. He appeared on a panel with computer security experts from UPMC, Duquesne Light and Giant Eagle.

“Before we look outward for all of the answers, even for a global company, we look inward,” Levine said. He later added that Pittsburgh has become a “hub for smart, new technology.”

Andrew Conte is a member of the Tribune-Review investigations team. Reach him at 412-320-7835 or andrewconte@tribweb.com.

Related Content
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.