On Saturday, the Mancos Public Library and the League of Women Voters will host a presentation by retired Navy Capt. Gail Harris on protecting data in an age of cyberwarfare.
Harris served in the intelligence field for 28 years, including two years with a U.S. Department of Defense cybermission force, before she retired in 2001. She said her presentation will deal with Russian foreign policy and the country’s recent online interference with government in the U.S. and other nations, as well as other cybersecurity issues. It starts at 10 a.m. in the library, and is free to the public.
Mancos Library Development and Programming Manager Shari Dunn said she decided to invite Harris to the library after hearing her speak to the Foreign Policy Association Great Decisions group at the Durango Public Library in April.
Saturday’s presentation will be an updated version of that talk, Harris said. She said she plans to focus on the “big picture” of cybersecurity in the U.S., but will also include some advice for the layperson on how to protect personal information from hackers.
Town governments especially have to be on the lookout for cyberattacks, she said, citing as an example the March ransomware attack on Atlanta, Georgia, which shut down the city’s computer systems for several days. In Colorado, similar attacks this year crippled the Department of Transportation’s computer systems for weeks.
Such incidents can be caused by domestic criminals or overseas military, she said, and it can be difficult to trace the culprits.
“This can happen anywhere,” Harris said.
The Durango resident has written and spoken on cybersecurity all over the U.S. since her retirement, and she said she still occasionally consults with federal investigation agencies. During her career in the Navy, she worked on some of the federal government’s first “intelligence architecture” dealing with cyberspace.
“I believe, just as we track threats from other nation states in the ocean, airspace ... we should also track what they can do to hurt us using cyber,” she said.
Harris said her presentation will also address threats to individual privacy through devices like smartphones and the Amazon Alexa, and how people can guard against them. There will be time for questions from the public, she said.