Sea Shepherd and The Cyber Threat Security Summit - Dublin 2012
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By Omar Todd - Chief Information Officer - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
As a Technical Director of a conservation society like Sea Shepherd, it’s not often anyone hears about what I do or in fact it’s rare I put up an article at all. You see, I’m in the back office (or on the road), the recesses and dark places where cyber conservation is starting to slowly stir, like Sauron awaking in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the stirrings of things to come.
We don’t talk about our technology very often because it’s a relatively new area and the technology and information could be used as a weakness or penetration target if too many details are published, however as time ticks on and the cyber world gets more active, and our lean online public relations becomes more critical to our fund raising methods, I decided to write a little abit about my observations in the world of Conservation, Sea Shepherd and technology for those that maybe interested.
In the past 6 years since I started being involved in Sea Shepherd, I noticed things were pretty Ad Hoc when it came to technology, security, the ships technology and asset management. There were some gifted people in the organisation, certain communication officers, and a few core people in Friday harbour that were doing a good job, but mostly acted reasonably independent of each other on different and pressing agendas. After all, Social Media, hacktivists, websites were all still relatively new, and just starting to make an impact, but how quickly things change.
We have our Captain and leader, Paul Watson under legal assault, our teams around the world busier than ever, and our reliance on our technology more critical than ever.
We have Social Media as our prime news distribution point, encrypted messaging systems and various technologies being employed from the ships and onshore that frankly boggle the minds of most. UAV’s, Massive ship Internet connections, social media technologies, websites, High Definition Cameras and experimental technologies I can’t even elaborate on, are now becoming more part of all our lives here in Sea Shepherd. Chapters around the world have grown and their needs for their own localised websites are expanding. My mail inbox looks like an Area 51 fictional depository of amazing ideas, technology and memos from staff, crew, and supporters from all over the world.
A good example how things have changed, is when our flagship the Steve Irwin was detained in Lerwick, Scottish Shetland Islands by the British courts, on the afternoon of Friday, July 15, 2011, due to a civil lawsuit brought against us by Maltese fishing company, Fish and Fish Limited. We managed to raise the full bail, in the hundreds of thousands, in around 2 weeks, mostly, thanks to social media and our core supporters.
Part of my role, which gets busier all the time, is to try to help the organisation shape, manage and dissect all the various assets and concerns that help adhere to the organisations core values and principles, while offering protection against cyber threats. I suppose Confidentiality, Availability and Integrity are paramount in our organisation’s future success.
Sea Shepherd is making enemies, and that’s because if it’s continual rising success to make an impact on the greedy super powers and corporations that continually put profit before compassion and sustainability. We do all this on a shoe string budget, yet I am playing with more and more technology that would make a 3rd year MIT student weep in jealously thanks to the generous support of our like minded volunteers. We have to protect ourselves from these emerging threats while also realising, just like governments have, that the cyber world is the new and emerging battlefield of ideals and control and we cannot pretend it’s not there. We have to also adapt to the changing landscape and use any methods possible to help our cause.
I think the most apt word that comes to mind is “convergence” and whether we like it or not the cyber world and conservation is starting to converge together.
To elaborate I went to the International Cyber Threat Task Force’s Cyber Threat Summit held in Dublin, which I’m also a council member of and what I continue to learn is just how much the leaders of the world don’t realise how many changes are occurring right under their noses in the technology field, and in particular, cyber threats. The conference, held by Security Specialist, Paul C Dwyer, president of the ICTTF, is a great supporter of Sea Shepherd and invited myself to attend the to establish firmer ties with the white hat community in general. White hats for those that don’t know, are the good guys that help protect our networks and computers, while grey hats are typically for hire, and black hats are well, the evil hackers we all read about.
The conference had many interesting talks by a variety of speakers, including, cloud networks, hackers, cyber insurance, social engineering (people management), social media, mobile security, protecting your brand and the future of cyber security, just to name a few and for Sea Shepherd’s point of view, these areas are all on the horizon and now being considered (even if uneasily and reluctantly) as part of the overall agenda on the organisation’s day to day operations. We recognise these events and organisations like the ICTTF are another important support facet to be able to call upon, for if we were compromised, or hacked, etc, we now have world class supporters and contacts that can help track down and assist the authorities in capturing the criminals.
So while we grow stronger each year with our supporters, our ships, our wonderful and talented crews, onshore volunteers, quietly, in the background, the Sea Shepherd Cyber Warriors are also cyber bench pressing and getting ready to fight the good fight, to save our oceans, to protect our clients and to save us, from ourselves.
You can follow omar on twitter @OmarSeaShepherd