Spying 2.0: What I will & won't be saying at SXSW

Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be speaking at SXSW Interactive. I’ve never been to SXSW (yes, I’m a SWirgin) and I have no expectations. The truth is I’m not one of the people you see on the “panel circuit” – in general I prefer to listen and learn – and then assault panelists/speakers with my typical barrage of questions:) My friend submitted the topic and when it got accepted, he asked me to speak and I said yes.

The topic of my talk is Spying 2.0: Can America Compete With Web-Savvy Enemies? For the record: I’m not a spy, most defintely not a Mrs. Smith. I’m a senior research analyst for LMI, a not-for-profit strategic consultancy committed to helping government leaders and managers reach decisions that make a difference.  We work with every federal department, agency, and military service on a broad spectrum of issues and opportunities.  At the beginning of my talk, I will be making the disclaimer that I will not be speaking for any of the clients LMI represents. As a contractor, I cannot refer to any of the projects I work on and as an employee of LMI, my thoughts and opinions expressed during my talk are strictly my own and do not represent those of LMI nor any of the clients LMI serves.

I have a “robust” set of restrictions on what I can and cannot say but the best part is the format of my talk is a Salon, which I’m told is a “tad less formal” and  an alternative to the rigid speaker versus audience format. If you ask me, it sounds like a cocktail party discussion (refreshments will be available) where I present a topic and the objective is to stimulate some good discourse amongst the participants.

I am not an “expert” in anything detailed in my Salon description:

Accelerating technology cycles leave the US intelligence community gasping. Twitter, cloud computing, folksonomies, Loopt… can America’s sclerotic intelligence machinery compete as our enemies adopt cheap, fast-evolving open-source and web 2.0 intel strategies?

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to be. My experience has shown me my network, more times than not, is smarter than the expert.  I do plan on tweeting during my talk and I’ll have my peeps @immunity & @robotchampion in the room. I hope to see some other familiar faces but really I want to generate solid discussion and ideas on the topic.

I have some general thoughts on what I plan on saying, including asking what it means to be a “spy” in today’s day and age when everyone and anyone can take a picture with their cell phone and post it to the internet. And I also want to share something Rod Beckstrom said when I first met him last year: “We’re not safe until we ALL are safe.”  This is not limited to just Americans and our allies.

Dennis Blair, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, recently made the following statement about cybersecurity: “It’s a crew race. The offense pulls ahead -– you find out -– then the defense pulls ahead. We’ve got to keep stroking, faster, better, with more teamwork.” This doesn’t seem to be, in my opinion, a very good long-term strategic plan.  Something has to change.

If you look at the current U.S. administration’s agenda, the breadth of intelligence issues has broadened to include things such as the economy (the President now receives an Economic Daily Briefing) and energy and the environment. My plan for the talk is to share what I can, ask questions, listen and have everyone tweet the hell of it during and after:)

Excuse me while I get my boots on

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  1. I think it’s the conceptual difference between surveillance (traditional intel) and sousveillance (what everyone can do now).

    Good luck!

  2. Good luck, Amy! I think the rowing metaphor is fairly accurate and I’m not sure there’s an alternative. Think of the non-governmental areas like finance and commerce – hacker groups regularly pull “one stroke ahead” forcing those industries to confront security flaws. The best long-term strategy would be to get the best-of-the-best “bad guys” (or at least folks who can think like they do) to join our side. Easier said than done.

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