Security is paramount to companies' technology use, defense expert tells Crain's CIO Conference
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Defense expert Robert Childs addresses the importance of companies keeping their technology secure in his keynote speech Thursday at the Crain's CIO Conference.
Companies should protect their technology from enemies near and far, including the disgruntled employee, defense expert Robert Childs said in his keynote speech Thursday at the Crain's CIO Conference.
The United States is engaged in an unseen cyber war with nations such as Iran, Russia and China, said Childs, chancellor of the National Defense University iCollege, a college for graduates planning to work in the U.S. Department of Defense.
"Cyberspace and cybersecurity is the No. 1 concern we have right now around the world," he said.
But one of the biggest security issues to companies is employee theft, Childs said – and the disgruntled employee often is the biggest threat.
The event at the Fillmore Detroit featured two panel discussions, including one with the winners of the Crain's CIO Awards.
Employees must be monitored at companies, Child said, and executives who oversee security should know what constitutes a security breach and what denotes harmless, abnormal behavior.
Childs noted the Wikileaks debacle in which a low-ranking military officer, Bradley Manning, casually copied sensitive information onto CDs and passed it to Wikileaks.
Childs said the unseen cyber war between nations often affects the private sector, and he emphasized the importance of securing data.
Childs affirmed a story that ran in the Washington Post last Friday that pointed to Iran attacking JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, and said groups supported by the Chinese and Russian governments are responsible for attacks on electronic infrastructures within the U.S.
"Get the patches in … don't open attachments from people you don't know … if something goes wrong, you have to go after it right away," he told the audience of about 300 technology executives. "I have eight sheets of paper that have passwords for all the different things that I do."
He said defensive measures are constantly playing catch-up with offensive measures in the cybersecurity world, and quipped: "Offense is always ahead of defense, unless you have replacement officials."
Pictures posted online also pose problems, Childs said. After the speech, he cited an example of a party at which a student took a picture of a three-star general in a potentially embarrassing situation and published the photo. Fortunately, he said, the photo quickly came down, and few people saw it.
"As smart as these people are, they have a different value set and aren't as concerned with security," Childs said, referring to younger generations, such as the millennials.
The talk by Robert Childs and remarks from Accenture senior executive Elizabeth Klee were followed by a panel discussion with Quicken Loans Inc. CIO Linglong He, MotorCity Casino Hotel CEO and President Gregg Solomon, and Subra Sripada, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief information officer at Beaumont Health System.
MotorCity's Solomon said the casino currently is linking its slot machines into a common server, which Solomon said is a challenge, based on the level of regulation in the industry and the need to be mindful of the games' security.
Linglong He of Quicken, which does most of its business over the Internet, said that to keep customers' information secure, the company focuses heavily on storage, encryption and transfers of data.
Regarding the IT hiring shortage in metro Detroit, Sripada said Beaumont is cross-training employees to fill positions.
Linglong said recognizing technologies that could impact the business is the job of a company's CIO.
"As a technology leader, you really have to figure out ahead of time, 'Is that good for business?' " he said.
Strategy was the theme of the panel of CIO award winners, which included David Behen of the State of Michigan; Steve Carrington, senior vice president and CIO of Valassis Communications Inc.; Greg Davidson of Urban Science; Steve Robert of Billhighway; and Jason Yaeger, director of operations at Online Tech.
Robert, who helped start the cloud-based accounting company Billhighway, said the risks were "tremendous."
There was "something about working in a highly accountable environment," he said.
Robert added that it is easy to get caught up in technology and forget about client relations.
The panel talked about recruiting and keeping the best IT talent in-state.
"We've got to change the way we think, we've got to change the policies, and change the work environment to attract best people," Carrington said.
Behen, CIO for the state of Michigan, sits down once a month with CIOs from leading Michigan companies to talk about needs and concerns.
In the beginning, according to Behen, he told the CIOs: "Guys, I can't give you anything. I can't give you contracts."
The CIOs still jumped at the chance to sit down with Behen, he said, and help guide him when it comes to information technology in the state.
The panel also commented on the security issues associated with team members linking in to networks with personal devices.
"People in general want to bring their own tools to the workplace now," Behen said.
Robert added, "We don't want to discourage people from being plugged in."
The CIOs discussed their various approaches to culture in the workplace.
Carrington said the Valassis technology department is trying to move away from perfectionism in the interest of saving time.
Instead, Carrington said, his team focuses on accuracy and during the process often asks the question, "Is it good enough to move on?"
When it comes to culture, Michigan CIO Behen added, "We are trying to encourage folks to really take risks."