Future of Digital Security

Megan Stifel on Cyber Civil Defense: “We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable digital future”

Megan Stifel headshot

By Megan Stifel on April 20, 2023

Last week I was honored to join some of our peer organizations to highlight the essential role that the Cyber Civil Defense Initiative plays in the Institute for Security and Technology’s (IST) work to help improve our nation’s cybersecurity. Sponsored by Craig Newmark Philanthropies (CNP), the Cyber Civil Defense Initiative (CCD) is a whole-of-society effort to protect individuals and small businesses against cybersecurity threats, expand cybersecurity education and literacy, and promote inclusion in the cyber field. 

Stronger Together, hosted by Aspen Digital, celebrated the one-year anniversary of CCD. I joined a line-up of accomplished panelists who are part of the Initiative, including Madeline Di Nonno, CEO & President, Geena Davis Institute; Tennisha Martin, Founder and Executive Director, Black Girls Hack; Meridith Maskara, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater New York; Craig Newmark, Founder & CEO, Craig Newmark Philanthropies; and Phil Reitinger, President and CEO, Global Cyber Alliance. 

Through CCD, CNP has also been a key supporter of IST’s Ransomware Task Force (RTF), an effort launched in early 2021 to help government agencies, large enterprises, and small businesses better prepare for and respond to ransomware incidents and to deter and disrupt the ransomware threat. 

During the event, I highlighted two lines of effort from the RTF. The first seeks to implement the recommendations from our final report to help small and medium-sized enterprises better prepare for ransomware–sometimes referred to as cyber hygiene. Last August, through collaboration with the Center for Internet Security, the Global Cyber Alliance, and several private sector partners, we published the Blueprint for Ransomware Defense. The Blueprint is a consolidated list of cybersecurity actions known to reduce ransomware by over 70%. Since its August release, we’ve been organizing webinars and working to raise awareness about this resource, and our next phase will be to partner with a training platform to help even more organizations boost their defenses against the scourge of ransomware. It is also available in Spanish and soon will be available in Portuguese, which helps us not only reach more users in the United States, but also in other countries now experiencing more of the brunt of this malicious activity.

Next, the panel discussion turned to public-private operational collaboration. I highlighted IST’s work to boost users’ defenses alongside others in industry and government, an effort that also finds its roots in recommendations from the RTF. We know that for the foreseeable future, malicious actors will continue to leverage hardware and software vulnerabilities to prey on organizations both large and small in order to make a profit. Disrupting these actors’ ability to make a profit is one way to reduce harm to all of us. 

And so over the past year, with the continued support of CNP, we’ve been sharing the expertise housed in the private sector and highlighting the ways in which closer operational collaboration between public and private entities can minimize bad actors’ abilities to keep carrying out harmful attacks. We were particularly honored to support the development of the National Cybersecurity Strategy and pleased to see objectives included in Section 2 to enhance public private operational collaboration, disrupt adversaries, and defeat ransomware, which were core elements of our engagement as the strategy developed. We’ve seen progress from engaging our peers and government partners in dialogue about the challenge of ransomware; Craig’s support has been critical in our efforts to do so.

Just as civil defense spans individuals, government, and organizations, with Craig’s generous support we have also been working to empower the smallest organizations and leverage the capabilities of the biggest for the improved security of all. We all have a role to play in securing our digital ecosystem; join us in creating a more sustainable digital future. In particular, we look forward to hosting Craig Newmark and other members of the Cyber Civil Defense Initiative at our Ransomware Task Force event on May 5. Register now to be a part of the celebration.