Note: Major General John A. Davis (Retired) recently joined Palo Alto Networks as Federal Chief Security Officer. The below is excerpted from an article appearing in Cyber: The Magazine of the Military Cyber Professionals Association. Read the full article here.
I recently retired from active duty after a 35 year career in the U.S. military, the past decade of which has been devoted to the sometimes mysterious cyber world. I’d like to offer some insight into the personal lessons that I’ve learned during my experience in helping to stand up U.S. Cyber Command and while working cyber policies and strategies at the Pentagon. Although I’ve learned many more lessons, the three that I’ve chosen to share in this article are, in my view, especially important for leaders in both the public and private sectors, because we are all becoming increasingly connected through modern information technology. This means we all share in the exploding opportunities as well as the escalating risks. Below are my top three lessons and I will attempt to add more context in subsequent paragraphs to help both government and industry leaders understand why all sectors of society should care about these key points:
- Strong teamwork and effective partnerships are essential to cybersecurity success.
- The world is changing dramatically and so too must the balance between opportunity and risk in the information technology decision-making environment.
- As more nation-state militaries become involved in cyber operations, we must shine more light on what they are doing and why, in order to set accurate expectations and prevent mistakes.
Lesson number one is about a real need for teamwork and effective partnerships. If I had to come up with a motto for this lesson it would be, “Make friends … lots of friends…you’re gonna need them!” If you think you can go it alone in the cybersecurity business, think again. Many different organizations, both public and private, have critical roles and responsibilities in the cybersecurity environment, but no single organization has all the skills, talent, resources, capabilities, capacity or authority to act effectively in isolation. It truly does take a team approach and strong partnerships to operate effectively. However, creating trusted, credible partnerships requires significant dedication of time and energy from the leadership of an organization.