Katie Arrington: Cybersecurity in an Era of National Adversaries

Kitecast

Aug 28 2023 • 52 mins

Katie Arrington, former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the U.S. Department of Defense and member of the US House of Representatives, discusses her experience as CISO, noting that the position was newly created in 2019 to address urgent cybersecurity threats. In the role, she aimed to establish consistent standards for cybersecurity across the Department of Defense, including weapons systems, critical infrastructure, and the defense industrial base. A key challenge was overcoming the different cybersecurity approaches between military branches and establishing a unified culture.

Regarding the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), Arrington explains it was initially conceived as a unified standard for defense contractors to demonstrate implementation of NIST 800-171 security controls. Hundreds of industry representatives helped develop CMMC 1.0. Arrington expresses that she regrets not fully eliminating the use of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) as an indicator of whether contractors needed certification, believing all defense contractors should adhere to CMMC standards given growing threats.

Arrington highlights the massive cyber threats posed by nation states like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, which she says are targeting U.S. defense contractors to steal key technologies and intellectual property. She points out that China has a dedicated cyber army aimed at making China the world’s economic superpower. Russia has shown its cyber capabilities already in interfering with elections. These adversaries are relentless in exploiting vulnerabilities across the entire supply chain.

For defense contractors bidding on DoD projects, Arrington authored a white paper that estimates per-employee costs for cybersecurity based on company size. She believes contractors should build these costs into project bidding. Arrington argues CMMC is now just about verifying NIST 800-171 compliance, not evaluating maturity, so she anticipates the name changing in the future. In preparation for CMMC 2.0 Level 2 compliance audits, she recommends that contractors proactively get audits now rather than waiting until CMMC becomes a DIB mandate to address urgent threats.

Regarding supply chain risks, Arrington indicates primes cannot fully see risks beyond tier-one suppliers. She urges primes to contractually require CMMC certification from all subcontractors to improve security against threats that can enter anywhere in the supply chain.

Arrington stresses that cyberattacks are constant and rapidly evolving. No organization can be 100% secure. However, by implementing standards like NIST 800-171, organizations can mitigate these risks. Adherence to cybersecurity frameworks is critical today, an important focus for national security as cyber threats continue escalating.

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-arrington-a6949425/

Check out video versions of Kitecast episodes at https://www.kiteworks.com/kitecast or on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/KiteworksCGCP.

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