Protecting Pope Francis from Cyber Threats
With Pope Francis set to visit the region beginning on Friday, authorities are taking steps to increase security on the ground, in the air and in cyberspace.
Dave Weinstein, the deputy director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the cybersecurity advisor says significant resources have been allocated to review and investigate all cyber threats.
“Obviously the amount of chatter surrounding an event like the papal visit warrants a little more attention,” Weinstein said.
A special unit called the New Jersey Cyber Security and Communications Integration cell is working around the clock, carefully monitoring the threat landscape.
“They’re vetting those sources for validity to make sure that we can inform the public of threats as they happen in real time," Weinstein said.
He said there’s a lot of cyber threat “noise” out there right now, so it can sometimes be challenging to ascertain legitimate threats from those that are not.
“The best way to validate our sources is to communicate with our partners in the federal space, both in law enforcement and homeland security,” he said. “It’s a situation that requires a lot of collaboration between institutions public and private, and the more information sharing that goes on, the higher the probability that we’ll be able to validate the validity and credibility of a particular threat.”
Weinstein also said NJ Homeland Security personnel are constantly sharing information with the federal Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. He said when there are instances of increased chatter, it’s very hard to attribute the source.
“Also in many cases, particularly when it comes to ideological groups like ISIS, getting their message out is equally important as executing the actual cyber attack, and that’s why there is so much increased chatter surrounding a high profile event like the papal visit,” he said.
At the same time, Weinstein says sometimes the chatter can be intentionally misleading, “which again underscores why it’s so important to validate and vet our sources.”
If someone believes they may have information about a cyber threat involving the pope, he says “we would encourage citizens to report that at cyber.nj.gov, or they can call 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ.”