Defense, security and the real enemies

The end of the Cold War meant that the countries that threatened American democracy and our way of life didn’t go away. They adapted to use technology to attack us instead. Now that the extent of these attacks is being made known, we have two choices. Either we can continue to do little, or own and accept what’s happened and improve our situation.

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One of the CIOs I worked with once told me that he did not want to have a “security culture” at the company we worked at. With the evidence out there of continuing threats to our collective well-beings to the benefit of others at our expense, we need to recognize their gravity and not only have a culture that embraces security, but also vigilance, transparency and accountability to address the major issues cyberthreats have become. We need to embrace leaders that understand that, empower the ones that do, and set the example for others by being leaders ourselves and developing new ones.

We need to follow up from this by investing in technologies and processes that allow for strong authentication, verification and validation. We need to focus on the management of processes and technology with ourselves and trusted partners, not on buying technologies because they apparently fix our issues. One of the main reasons we are in the situation we are in is because of risk transference. We need to own the risks and address them, not pay someone to do so for us, and we need the leaders of companies to hold themselves and their teams accountable, even if the situation doesn’t look good. Only then will we have addressed the root causes of these issues, and possibly a few others.

Finally, we need to develop our people and teams. Education is paramount, and not just skills-based. Critical thinking skills are important to develop people who understand how to make educated decisions. We need to own the development of team members and make sure that we keep people interested and engaged by continually communicating the meaning of the work, and continually follow up on their development. We talk about how millennials constantly move jobs. Two of the major driving factors are engagement and continual learning. We can’t focus on skills-based development and expect engagement out of that. We need to make sure that we build the career path that people need to succeed, and make sure we start early to educate at all levels. When we did this in the 1950s and 1960s, we created a generation of engineers and scientists that built a strategic advantage for the U.S. due to the threats of the Soviets overtaking us. We need to continue that, and it needs to start with a good education that continues into career development and engagement, like the large defense contractors, military, government, IBM and GM had. That threat has not dissipated. It has only changed. We need to realize that and change before it’s too late.

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