Last year, we ran an immensely popular blog post, "TED Talk 10-Pack: Security Lectures That Will Open Your Eyes and Mind." These were fascinating explorations about everything from the sophistication of cybercriminals and the extent of their infiltration to harnessing hackers for good or scrutinizing binary 1s and 0s for revealing patterns that bring attackers to light.

CSO, the IDG publication providing news, analysis, and research on security and risk management topics, has once again collected a number of these lectures in one place: “7 (More) Security TED Talks You Can’t Miss.” These seven focus on our societal response to cybercrime and cyberwarfare. Says CSO, “In this selection you’ll find speakers taking on some of the most pressing, and persistent, security and privacy challenges of our time, from how society can fight the war on terror while maintaining the social values we cherish to Bruce Schneier’s talk on how challenging it is for us to evaluate and understand risk.”

As with last year's batch, these presentations are all relatively short—ranging from 6 to 21 minutes in length—worth the investment in return for some intriguing takes on the cyberthreat by the experts. Watch one per day during the week ahead, or devour them all in a single 1½-hour sitting. While these TED Talks were created a few years ago, they are still plenty powerful in terms of their message and impact.

Hear from an Internet Freedom Activist, a Security Head at Twitter, a Secure Email Developer, and a Philosopher

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • “We Can Fight Terror Without Sacrificing Our Rights”: Internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon begins this collection of talks by raising the question "How do we fight terror without destroying democracies, without trampling human rights?" She shows how antiterror measures can quickly turn into state repression without strong protection for peaceful debate and an independent local media. “And it’s not just the actions of authoritarian governments," MacKinnon adds. "It’s also because democratic governments are increasingly cracking down on dissenters, whistle blowers, and investigative journalists.” The balance between protection and freedom is a fierce issue that makes this talk an important starting point in your listening here.
  • “Think Your Email's Private? Think Again”: In this talk, Andy Yen, a physicist and economist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), demonstrates an email encryption program he has been working on, and he argues that email encryption needs to be something we all have everyday access to. Working against this reality, however, says Yen, is the fact that everyday email encryption would conflict with the advertising goals of some of the biggest names on the web: Yahoo, Facebook, Google. “We need to support a different business model for the Internet, one that does not rely entirely on advertisements for revenue and for growth," he says.TED-on-terror-seven-security-talks.jpg
  • "Protecting Twitter Users (Sometimes from Themselves)": Combining a sense of humor with the hard facts, Del Harvey, who heads up Twitter's Trust and Safety Team, gives us a dramatic sense of the sheer scale of the security challenge at Twitter, where the number of tweets per day increased 24,900 percent during the span of five years. This talk is an eye-opening look at the reality of security for an IT giant, where that one-in-a-million chance of a security calamity actually happens 500 times per day. Making it her job to "visualize catastrophe," Harvey adds, "For us, a one in a million chance is pretty good odds.”
  • “How to Fool a GPS”: GPS "dots" let you go to millimeter-level positioning in terms of accuracy. Assistant professor Todd Humphreys tells an interesting tale of how they can be used to stalk and terrorize. He then discusses tools like GPS jammers and GPS spoofers, which can be effective in combatting such terror but which are illegal because of the tremendous safety compromises they create and deadly consequences they can have. It's a thought-provoking look at the "looming conflict between privacy on the one hand and the need for a clean radio spectrum on the other," says Humphreys.
  • “The Security Mirage”: Computer security guru Bruce Schneier gets philosophical with us as he delves into how human beings must make tradeoffs between adopting security measures and allowing certain security risks, and end up being "hopelessly bad at it." This TED Talk will surely add depth to your appreciation of the topic of security as you come to understand this fundamental problem in our basic nature: we respond to the feeling of security, but not the reality. As Schneier says, "You can feel secure even if you're not. And you can be secure even if you don't feel it." Listen and understand the various ways in which we fall into this trap.
  • A New Way to Stop Identity Theft”: Identity and digital money expert David Birch's major premise here is that we could reduce identity theft if we were to share only that information that absolutely had to be shared as part of a need to know. For example, he argues, why have our names on credit cards when only the valid number is needed as part of a transaction? Similarly, a bartender needs to know only your age, and a retailer needs only your PIN—not your name.
  • How to Avoid Surveillance ... with the Phone in Your Pocket”: Privacy activist Christopher Soghoian reminds us that our phones very likely have the tools built in "to thwart many different types of government surveillance," and he believes we should use them. While government officials are not happy that Silicon Valley companies have built the kind of encryption technology into their communications products that makes surveillance extremely difficult, Soghoian is fervent in his belief that we need to make networks as secure as possible, including from government surveillance. “Should a billion people being using devices that are wiretap friendly?” he asks.


You can find all seven "Security TED Talks You Can't Miss" from CSO here. These talks raise some controversial and meaty issues! How do you feel about what you've encountered here? Which piece most struck a chord with you? Let us know why in the Comments below!

Are conversations like these igniting, or reigniting, your enthusiasm for the fields of security and cybersecurity? If so, continue the exploration along the Security and Cybersecurity learning and certification pathways currently offered by Cisco.




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Gary Pfitzer is a content manager at Learning@Cisco, focused on bringing various aspects of today's IT journey to light through business papers, blogging, customer success stories, and other writing.