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Cyber-risk conference: ‘A New Manhattan Project’

Cybersecurity expert Brett Williams to keynote DePaul University conference on Dec. 1

Brett Williams
Cybersecurity expert Brett Williams will speak at DePaul University's second annual cyber-risk conference, “A New Manhattan Project: Forging a Proactive Public-Private Collaboration in Cybersecurity,” on Dec. 1. (Photo courtesy of Brett Williams)
​​​​​CHICAGO — A series of cyberattacks in July 2015 on the New York Stock Exchange’s electronic trading platform, the Wall Street Journal’s website and United Airlines’ reservation system, drew international attention to the urgency for better public and private cybersecurity. Shortly after those events, cybersecurity expert Brett Williams appeared on “Meet the Press” and said a massive collaboration among public and private institutions is needed in order to be proactive in dealing with cybersecurity. He compared the needed collaboration to that of the Manhattan Project, which produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II. 

Williams will speak at DePaul University’s second annual cyber-risk conference, “A New Manhattan Project: Forging a Proactive Public-Private Collaboration in Cybersecurity.” The all-day conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The event will be held in suite 8005 in the DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., in downtown Chicago on Dec. 1.

“This year’s conference will focus on the U.S. becoming more proactive rather than reactive,” said Carl Luft, academic director of the Arditti Center for Risk Management in DePaul’s College of Business, one of the hosts. 

“We have become accustomed to the speed and convenience made possible by technology, but technology creates exposures and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.” Luft said.

The conference, will include panels that cover cyber-risk prevention, how to maintain cybersecurity, and what to expect from the cyber-world moving forward. During his keynote address, Williams will give an overview on both the public and private side of cybersecurity.  

Williams, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and former director of operations at U.S. Cyber-Command, is president of operations and training at IronNet Cybersecurity, a private cybersecurity firm. He was responsible for operations of Department of Defense networks, and served as director of communications for U.S. Pacific Command from 2009-11. 

Having retired after 33 years of service, Williams is bringing his experience to the private sector with a focus on strengthening the nation’s ability to protect critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Williams’ final active duty assignment was director of operations at U.S. Cyber Command where he was responsible for worldwide, full-spectrum cyberspace operations in support of national strategic objectives. Williams has an MBA from Webster University, a master’s degree in National Security and Strategy Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and a master’s degree in Airpower Art and Science from the Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Duke University.

In addition to William’s keynote address, there will be three panel discussions:

“Catching up to the Curve” will address the current state of cybersecurity in the U.S. It will cover the emerging threats to both the public and private sectors based on recent data breaches, and where public and private institutions are most vulnerable.

“Public-Private Collaboration” will examine how the public and private sectors are collaborating and responding to cyber threats. This discussion will build on Williams’ keynote address calling for more collaboration among governmental agencies and private sector institutions. Effective cybersecurity requires a continuing commitment and vast resources by both the public and private sectors. 

“Moving Forward” will look at the collaboration between public and private sectors and how they should evolve in the future. There will be discussion regarding types of existing resources and infrastructure that will help lead to a more secure cyber environment in the U.S.

Speakers for these panels include Bill Annabell, Sapient Global Services; Aaron Tantleff, Foley & Lardner; Jill Rhodes, CISO Trustmark; Eric Brelsford, FBI; Jacob Furst, DePaul University’s School of Computing; Joe Nocera PwC; Kari Williams, Winston and Strawn.

Registration is online at A discounted early registration fee is available for $150 if purchased by Nov. 15. 

For a full schedule of events and more information visit

DePaul academic and research units hosting the conference, in addition to the Arditti Center for Risk Management, include the Center for Financial Services in the Driehaus College of Business; College of Computing and Digital Media; and College of Law. Sponsors include Sapient Global Markets; Protiviti Risk & Business Consulting; Global Association of Risk Professionals; Chicago Actuarial Association; Midwest Actuarial Forum; and Society of Actuaries.​

Media Contact:
Wendy Zamaripa Smit​
312-362-7​749 ​