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GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Dec. 6, 2017) – U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Ed Wilson, deputy principal cyber advisor to the Secretary of Defense, talks about the importance of sharing best practices on the international front for cybersecurity to 98 participants from 51 countries during the Program on Cyber Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Dec. 5. (Marshall Center photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn)

By Christine June
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Dec. 6, 2017) – The scope, sophistication, pace and spread of today’s cyber threats is unmatched in history, said the Deputy Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Ed Wilson spoke to 98 participants from 51 countries as the keynote speaker for the Program on Cyber Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Dec. 5. The Marshall Center is a German-American international security and defense studies institute based here.

Costs Outweigh Potential Benefits for Adversaries

“We must convince a potential adversary that the cost of conducting a cyberattack outweigh any potential benefits,” said Wilson, who also serves as the senior military advisor for cyber in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Wilson said the first step was to deny the adversary the ability to achieve the objectives of a cyberattack.

“We do this by strengthening our cyber defenses and reducing our attack surface,” Wilson said. “Our adversary will begin to believe that any attack will be futile.”

Wilson said the next step is to improve resiliency.

“Even if any single attack is successful, we can reconstitute quickly so that our adversary’s ultimate objective will not be achieved,” he said. “And finally, we need to be prepared to impose costs on an adversary, so he believes our ability to respond to an attack will result in unacceptable costs imposed on them.”

These costs, said Wilson, can be imposed through a variety of mechanisms, including economic sanctions, and law enforcement and military action.

“Our task at DOD is to plan and prepare to contribute military capabilities, if directed,” he said.

A Unique Cybersecurity Program

Founded in 2014, the three-week Program on Cyber Security Studies helps participants appreciate the nature and magnitude of today’s threats and develops a common understanding of the best practices and current initiatives within the public and private cyber sectors.

The Marshall Center was designated in 2014 by DOD as a Center of Excellence for Transnational Security Studies, due to its cybersecurity program, as well as its courses on countering terrorism and organized crime.

“Our program is unique in that it targets global participants from across the spectrum of governmental ministries for exposure to a comprehensive, policy-focused, non-technical, cybersecurity program,” said Professor Phil Lark, PCSS program director. “We emphasize and teach senior key leaders how to best make informed decisions on cyber policy, strategy and planning within the framework of whole-of-government cooperation and approaches.”

Building a Brighter, More Secure Future

Wilson said that the Marshall Center is the essence of what needs to be done on the international front to build a brighter, more secure future.

“The Marshall Center is one of the key steps – a tremendous asset – in building trust and confidence in each other,” he said.

“We have more than 50 countries’ key cyber professionals represented here in this program right now who will be sharing their best practices on how to develop the human capital across the international front and ideas on how the larger, more capable countries can assist the smaller ones to be able to bring assets to bear against this problem,” Wilson said. “If we don't move in that direction, I think we'll be displeased with the results in two, five, and 10 years from now.”