A shift in mindset to mobilize against cyber threats

What’s the likelihood that the power grid, stock exchange or another critical infrastructure could be taken down by a cyber-attack?This week’s American Legion Tango Alpha Lima special guest and cyber security expert answers the question for us.

“The probability is definitely not zero. Are we susceptible to it? Absolutely. Is it going to happen? Definitely,” said Jeffrey Engle, chairman and president of Conquest Cyber. “Is it going to happen in a coordinated way that we are not going to be able to recover from? That’s what I’m trying to avoid. That’s why I get up every day and do what I do.”

Engle, a U.S Army Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, is chairman and president of Conquest Cyber, where he helps protect critical American assets from ongoing cyber-attacks using the philosophies and tactics he learned in Special Operations. A few areas of focus for Conquest include the financial services industry, health-care system, energy companies, oil and gas, air, agriculture – “all of them provide for our way of life and if they were to go down, it would have devastating consequences,” he said. Through relationships with critical infrastructure organizations and government agencies, Conquest is building cyber resiliency by “providing all the necessary skills, technology and capabilities to be able to compete and gain a competitive edge” with persistent threats.

Engle added that to build cyber resiliency, it’s going to take changing the mindset of those in critical infrastructure, regulators and the “typical American who’s putting things out on YouTube or Instagram or TikTok that they don’t realize is open-source intelligence that can be used to target the critical infrastructure sector. We need a real shift in our mindset to mobilize against these threats.”

That initiated the question if personal drones could pose a threat. Short answer: yes.

“We monitor the networks of our customers to detect adversaries, and in doing so we can identify if they have already been compromised or if there are vulnerabilities,” Engle said. “The thing that causes me the most pain as a business leader is when one of our customers enrolls personal devices into their active directory, so I start seeing what’s on the personal devices. I can see some of the easily exploitable or already exploited characteristics of their personal device. That is the thing that should give you pause.”

Podcast co-host Ashley Gutermuth said she was going to move under a cave and start prepping.

“Here’s what I tell everybody,” Engle said. “If you want somebody to give you a scary story that keeps you up at night, I’m your guy. At the same time, realize I sleep very, very good because I have a plan that I’m going to do everything I possibly can about preventing it (a cyber attack on our infrastructure). But I’m also going to be on people’s apocalypse A team that if the worse does happen … I have a few arrows in my quiver.”

The topic of artificial intelligence artwork also was discussed with Engle for his take on it. He said after spending a lot of time in combat, “I’d rather get shot at then have somebody with an AI picture of me as a goat.”

Gutermuth was quick to add that “now we have cover art for this podcast.”

Other topics that co-hosts Gutermuth and Jeff Daly find amusement with:

- A new candle that smells like jet fuel that Gutermuth will buy her dad.

- A group of Marines outwit an artificial intelligence security camera by hiding in a cardboard box.  

- How the Air Force is giving a new use of its motto Aim High with its app.

For all this and more, check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 160 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.