Panel: Systemic risk applies far beyond financial sector

By Doug Parry Thursday, February 7, 2019

Systemic risk has long been a factor in the financial world, where problems at a large enough firm can threaten the entire system. A prime example is the 2008 housing bubble that triggered a recession and nearly brought down the entire banking industry.

But now, “systemic risk extends far past the financial sector,” Information School Lecturer Annie Searle said during a Feb. 6 panel discussion on cybersecurity and systemic risk at the Allen Library on the UW campus.

Searle was joined on the panel by Mary Gardner, chief information security officer at F5 Networks, and Michele Turner, a senior manager at Amazon. Jessica Beyer, a lecturer at the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies, served as the moderator.

Searle cited risk from hacking and ransomware attacks that have targeted not only the financial sector, but health care and even local government, such as an attack in recent weeks in the city of Sammamish, Washington, in which government files have been held for an undisclosed ransom.

Gardner noted she saw stark differences in preparedness when she moved from the financial sector to health care, which has moved slowly from paper records to digital and has not invested in security at the same level as banks.

“The financial sector is probably 20 years ahead of health care in terms of people and practices around cybersecurity,” Gardner said.

Turner noted that for companies, the amount of resources devoted to cybersecurity “comes down to a cost-benefit analysis.” Companies have to weigh the cost of devoting staff and money to security versus the potential cost of a breach, which for some companies can be catastrophic.

Searle said cybersecurity – just like physical and operational security – is an essential part of doing business. She urged organizations to be diligent and ensure they have continuous monitoring and patching of vulnerabilities, and to be ready to have a team ready to respond to incidents.

The panel discussion was the second in a series of six events focused on cybersecurity and technology futures. The series is sponsored by the Jackson School of International Studies, the iSchool and the UW Women’s Center. The next event, a discussion of artificial intelligence moderated by Searle, is scheduled for March 6.

Pictured at top: iSchool Lecturer Annie Searle (right) speaks as moderator Jessica Beyer (left) and panelists Mary Gardner (second from left) and Michele Turner look on.