How one UK CSO makes security relatable to the business

Abcam CSO Helen Rabe discusses how humanizing security can help get employees on board with efforts to protect the business and share risk.

CSO > teamwork / collaboration / abstract data
Metamorworks / Getty Images

As the CSO of life sciences firm Abcam, Helen Rabe gets hands-on with the work of the company’s scientists to understand how the business really works. That knowledge enables her to humanize the security function—a critical task in an industry where valuable intellectual property (IP) is vulnerable to insider threats.

Making security relatable

Based in Cambridge, UK, Abcam is a producer, distributor and seller of protein research tools. Founded in 1998 to make it easier for research scientists to buy antibodies off the web, the company now has around 1,300 employees globally with offices in the UK, US, Japan, Australia and China.

Previously CISO at CBRE and head of information security at Costa Coffee, Rabe joined Abcam as CSO in late 2019. One of her main areas of security focus is reducing the insider threat, whether malicious or accidental. Technology alone will not solve the insider problem, says Rabe, adding that more effort needs to be made around making security relatable and ensuring people “feel a part of the security culture.”

“Many of us [in security] are not relatable to the people that we engage with,” says Rabe. “We expect so much of our end users because we get it. Things that we take for granted, they don't get. They think what we do is a dark art.” She adds that the jargon that security uses can get in the way of good communication. “When you go and you explain why you need them to not do this behavior, you have to be able to speak their language.”

To continue reading this article register now

The 10 most powerful cybersecurity companies