Here’s something to think about the next time your team crafts an email marketing message. "About two thirds of cyber attacks start with an email," said Patrick Peterson, founder and CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Agari, a security solutions provider.  

Email is the foundation of digital, added Agari CMO Kevin Cochrane. "And the more we go digital, the more we put ourselves at risk. I think people are just realizing. It's a problem that needs fixing — now," Cochrane said.

In a conversation with CMSWire today from the first ever White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection on the Stanford University campus, Peterson and Cochrane said it was time to acknowledge the potential risks of the Digital Age.

While Peterson cautioned that there was no reason to panic about the growing threats of cybercrime, he stressed that it was time to face facts, accept reality and "be mindful" about potential dangers.

"In a digital, connected world full of stronger and stronger adversaries, the risks are extreme," he said. One of the biggest risks, he added, is a collective loss of trust in the digital economy.

By Invitation Only

Peterson and Cochrane were among an elite group invited to attend today's summit. The Summit brought together leaders from across the country who have a stake in this issue, including industry, tech companies, law enforcement, consumer and privacy advocates, law professors who specialize in this field and students.

President Obama reminded attendees that cyberspace touches nearly every part of our daily lives — "from the broadband beneath us to the wireless signals around us to the networks that power our hospitals, schools and our nation." He noted that his administration is pursuing five key measures to strengthen its approach to cybersecurity threats by:

  1. Protecting the country's critical infrastructure
  2. Improving our ability to identify and report cyber incidents
  3. Engaging with international partners to promote an open, interoperable, secure and reliable cyberspace
  4. Securing federal networks
  5. Shaping a cyber-savvy workforce

Peterson estimated about 200 people, about half of them students, attended the morning sessions. In the afternoon, a smaller group of about 100 public and private industry leaders continued the conversation, collaborating and exploring partnerships that could bolster cybersecurity.

Looking for Solutions

"It was very cool," Peterson said. "One of the key things discussed was the issue of information sharing, and the differences between shared information that affects privacy and that which doesn't."

As an example of legitimate information sharing, he cited the government warning other corporations about something like last year's Sony hack or a consortium of financial institutions sharing real time information about newly discovered malware.

The bottom line, Peterson said, is awareness. "In the past two years, I have seen a change in attitude among many senior corporate leaders. They've gone from acting like ostriches with their heads in the sand to worrying about a data breach that puts their heads on guillotines."

Taking Action

In our ever more data-rich environments, Peterson said more companies are hiring Chief Information Security Officers and taking proactive steps to hire companies like Agari, a company that develops data-driven security solutions powering real time cyberthreat detection prevention for global companies and their customers. 

While there is no way to stop cybercrime — "We don't have the technology for a 100 percent solution," Peterson acknowledged — there are ways to minimize attacks and boost protection.

Take email, for instance. "It's the simplest of problems with a ready fix: authenticate and validate email," Cochrane said. "Simple. It just needs to happen. It all stops."

Agari's mission, Cochrane added, "is to protect our digital investments and lives. No more lost identities. It's bad for us all."

Odds are everyone at today's cybersecurity summit would agree.