Spies, cybersecurity and espionage at heart of this year’s Faculty of Science York Forum

Eric O’Neill poses for a portrait in Kensington, Maryland, on January 13 2017.

Cybersecurity poster for the York Forum eventThis year’s Faculty of Science York Forum has all the makings of an edge-of-your-seat spy story. Cybersecurity in the Age of Espionage will feature cybersecurity expert, author and former FBI operative Eric O’Neill talking spies, cybersecurity and counter-intelligence.

The York Forum will take place Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, second floor, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St., Toronto. Tickets are FREE, but registration is required. Download the event poster.

As an undercover FBI operative or “ghost,” O’Neill helped catch one of the first and most notorious cyber spies, Robert Hanssen, charged with selling American secrets to Russia for more than US$1.4 million in cash and diamonds. Hansen’s ability to exploit computer systems allowed him to protect his identity during a 22-year spy career. O’Neill’s involvement in catching him inspired the spy thriller, Breach.

At the York Forum, O’Neill will use real-life spy stories and review recent massive cyber-attacks to show how careful diligence, counter-espionage techniques, and restraint in social media can help identify the numerous spies, hackers, cyber criminals and trusted insiders that threaten every stroke of your keyboard.

Experts predict that the cyber theft of private and confidential information from government agencies, business, and private individuals will reach $6 trillion annually by 2021. O’Neill now runs The Georgetown Group, a premier investigative and security consultancy out of Washington, DC., and is the National Security Strategist for Carbon Black, the leader in next generation endpoint protection. He will show how today’s cyber spy is responsible for sophisticated, brilliant, devious, and technologically advanced attacks targeting your data.

A panel discussion will follow the talk also featuring York mathematics Professor Patrick Ingram and Kristin Ali an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and an associate at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, moderated by Dan Falk, award-winning science journalist and York Science Communicator in Residence.

A book signing of O’Neill’s new book, Gray Day: My Undercover Mission to Expose America’s First Cyber Spy, will follow the talk.

About the speaker and panellists

Eric O’Neill

Eric O’Neill is an attorney, security consultant and professional public speaker. In 2001, O’Neill helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history: Robert Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI. The remarkable true events of his life are the inspiration behind the critically acclaimed dramatic thriller Breach, starring Ryan Philippe as O’Neill. The film is the story of the greatest security breach in U.S. history. O’Neill began his career in the FBI as a “ghost” – an undercover field operative tasked to surveil and monitor foreign, national, and domestic terrorists and spies. During the Hanssen investigation, O’Neill worked directly undercover with the spy within the FBI’s Information Assurance Division – created to protect all classified FBI intelligence. Currently, O’Neill  runs The Georgetown Group, a premier investigative and security consultancy out of Washington, DC. He is also the National Security Strategist for Carbon Black, the leader in next generation endpoint protection. A talented motivational speaker who weaves real life experiences into a presentation that is both entertaining and rewarding, O’Neill provides practical insights into real work situations relevant to many industries.

Patrick Ingram

Patrick Ingram is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science at York University. His research is in number theory, in particular he is focused on applications of arithmetic geometry and non-Archimedean analysis to dynamical systems. He is the recipient of the 2018 G. de B. Robinson Award from the Canadian Mathematical Society. Ingram also teaches cryptography for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in the Lassonde School of Engineering. Cryptography has gone from a specialized military concern to something that impacts daily lives with the advent of public key cryptosystems. All modern public key systems are based on current thinking about which sorts of problems in number theory are easy to solve, and which ones are difficult to solve. As the frontier of research in number theory advances, society’s current understanding of the cryptography necessary to secure a smart phone or a bank account evolves in tandem.

Kristin Ali

Kristin Ali is a member of the privacy & data management group at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. She advises clients on a broad range of privacy, cybersecurity and information management matters. Ali has extensive experience working with corporate clients that have suffered data breaches or have been accused of privacy violations. Prior to joining Osler, Ali practised for many years in Toronto and Boston as a litigator, focusing on technology-related disputes and e-discovery issues. She has represented public and private organizations in litigation, arbitration and government investigations relating to data security breaches, software failure, securities fraud and pharmaceutical compliance. As an adjunct faculty member at Osgoode Hall Law School, she has taught an upper-year seminar on contract remedies. She also speaks regularly at conferences across Canada and the U.S. on cross-border and cybersecurity issues.

About the moderator

Dan Falk

Dan Falk is an award-winning science journalist based in Toronto. His writing credits include Scientific American, New Scientist, Smithsonian, The Walrus, Nautilus, Aeon, Quanta, Slate and NBCnews.com. He’s written three popular science books, most recently The Science of Shakespeare. Falk has appeared regularly on several CBC Radio programs and has contributed more than a dozen documentaries to CBC’s “Ideas.” He also co-hosts “BookLab,” a podcast that reviews popular science books. In 2011-12, he was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.