#cybersecurity | Speaker disinvites at CyberCon spark controversy


Controversy has erupted at CyberCon, Australia’s largest cybersecurity conference, as two well-known cybersecurity experts have been disinvited from speaking with only a week’s notice. The event organizer has said in an email to one of the speakers that they did so at the request of a partner.

That raises questions about whether the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), that country’s counterpart to the NSA, pressured the conference to silence critical voices. The ASD and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), part of the ASD, are partners of the show organizer, the Australian Information Security Association (AISA). CyberCon opened October 7, in Melbourne, Australia.

NSA whistleblower Drake one of the speakers

One of the speakers is Thomas Drake, the NSA whistleblower whose ultimate firing contributed to Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified information about mass surveillance programs to journalists. He was set to speak on the national security state, encryption, and other topics. The other speaker, Dr. Suelette Dreyfus, a professor at the University of Melbourne, was due to deliver a talk on secure and anonymous digital drop boxes as an anti-corruption tool.

“I was invited as a speaker 11 months ago, and reconfirmed over the intervening time,” Dr. Dreyfus tells CSO. ” About a week before the event I was told I was disinvited as a speaker.”

Diversity of thought is widely recognized as key to addressing cybersecurity issues going forward, and CyberCon’s decision to disinvite two leading cybersecurity thinkers prompted Dreyfus to call this “head-in-the-sand behavior.”

No enterprise would hire a red team of yes men. The point of hiring external penetration testers is to get a different point of view. Yet that is exactly what CyberCon has done this year, Dr. Dreyfus says. “Cybersecurity requires open discussion at forums like this to change the actual culture inside organizations,” she says.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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