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FIRST conference focuses on handling security breaches

From left: Héctor G. Martínez, Margrete Raaum, Maarten Van Horenbeeck, FIRST board member, and Klaus-Peter Kossakowski, program chair for FIRST.

The Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) kicked off its 29th annual conference in Puerto Rico, with some 720 attendees from 68 countries.

The conference, which is taking place for the first time in Puerto Rico, titled “Fighting Pirates and Privateers,” runs until June 16, organizers said Monday.

A panel of FIRST leaders made a brief presentation to the local press, providing conference highlights, plus data on FIRST and its place within the global information security industry.

“We want this to be a watering hole for all security experts dealing with security incidents. Attendees come to exchange and debate security incidents, and novel methods of protecting themselves and responding to a security breach,” said Margrete Raaum, Chair for FIRST, about the annual conference.

“They will also get to meet peers from around the world, an invaluable asset when faced with a global incident, such as the recent WannaCry attack” she said. “We enable our members to become better at what they do, by creating opportunities for them to exchange experiences at our conference and about 15-20 smaller events throughout the year.”

Raaum said FIRST decided to bring its 29th annual conference to Puerto Rico because FIRST’s membership is global, and the organization often chooses venues that will allow it to be close to its members, or to enable new people to join its community from regions the organization visits less frequently.

“We found great support in our local host, GM Security Technologies. We’re eager to engage the cyber security communities in the wider Caribbean region, and invite them to join our community,” she added.

Puerto Rico is represented in FIRST by GM Security Technologies, and its president, Héctor G. Martínez, served as the event’s local host.

“As a security company, we wanted to have more information about what happens in the rest of the world with these issues. In Puerto Rico, we have the same challenges you see in the rest of the world,” Martínez said.

“We saw that very recently with the [Puerto Rico] Treasury Department hack. Being a FIRST member gives us certain advantages because it keeps us updated on different tactic and response trends, in addition to providing access to information generated by different teams within the organization,” Martínez said, regarding the value of FIRST membership.

During the conference, FIRST will be welcoming four new participants to its Suguru Yamaguchi Fellowship Program. Named after late board member Suguru Yamaguchi, this initiative is a competitive program in which incident response teams from developing countries are funded by FIRST to participate in the conference, attend training, and become a FIRST member.

“This year, we’re welcoming teams from Vietnam, Ecuador, Panama and Moldova. By organizing the conference in this region, we’re also actively inviting teams from the Caribbean to consider joining FIRST,” said Maarten Van Horenbeeck, board member of FIRST.

Another conference highlight is the signing of two cooperation agreements during the conference. FIRST will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GÉANT Association to cooperate in organizing the TF-CSIRT Meeting and European Regional Symposium.

This is an annual event which takes place in Europe, and brings together incident response teams from the membership of both TF-CSIRT and FIRST. TF-CSIRT is a task force within GÉANT Association that promotes collaboration and coordination between CSIRTs in Europe and neighboring regions, whilst liaising with relevant organizations at the global level and in other regions.

Raaum and Sigita Jurkynaite, project development officer for GÉANT Association will sign the agreemeent this week.

FIRST will also sign an MOU with OIC-CERT to help each other in the organization of events and trainings, assist in the development of each other’s event programs, and in general keep each other up to date on the work in our respective organizations.

The OIC-CERT is a platform for the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries to explore and to develop collaborative initiatives and possible partnerships in matters pertaining to cyber security that shall strengthen their self-reliance in the cyber space. Raaum and Badar Ali Said Al Salehi, chair of OIC-CERT, will sign off on the MOU.

Among the featured keynote speakers during the week are Alex Stamos, chief security officer at Facebook; Darren Bilby, security engineering manager of infrastructure protection at Google Australia; Florian Egloff from the University of Oxford; Martijn de Hamer, head of the National Cyber Security Operations Center at NCSC-NL; and Brian LaMacchia, director of the Security & Cryptography group within Microsoft Research.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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