Crisis and an Incontestable Need for Security — A Business Viewpoint

October 19, 2020
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4 min read

Data, data, data.

We have plenty of it, and in the eyes of some, it’s considered too much of a good thing. In practical terms, too much data often translates into blurred sight lines or the likely abetting of threats hiding within our environment. Improperly managed, it surely affects one’s ability to simply ‘see’ what’s going on day-to-day.

We also have statistics. You know the old adage: ‘lies, darn lies and statistics.’ From my point of view, and in these transformational times, the importance and impact of statistical science is more perceptible than ever. However, there is an important caveat to this.

The statistical information relative to cyber breaches that have been published in ever increasing numbers, and of ever higher shock value, may potentially be counter-productive. The fear is that raw, un-contextualized data or statistics can mislead and potentially deliver perverse or unintended outcomes.

Security and Need

So, for a few minutes, let’s move away from the data and statistics relative to cybersecurity and let’s reflect on a conversation I had Aug. 19, 2020, with President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, Goldy Hyder.

As a former national security executive at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), let me state unequivocally that I value data and evidence-based decision making, along with the application of rigour and objectivity in the assessment of facts. But, what I enjoy even more is an insightful conversation, especially one involving one of the most experienced and trusted voices representing the top 150 businesses in Canada. Here are some of the highlights of that recorded session:

Hyder started with a reflection on his past that was both humorous and prescient.

“Ray,” he says, “Did you know that my master’s thesis was on policy making in times of crisis?”

He adds that although some in his circle wondered about its relevance to his future career, he clearly made a clever choice — albeit with a longer-term horizon.

What struck me from this revelation he made in graduate school was his next comment about the importance of not being in a crisis situation, only to suddenly realize you don’t have a ‘policy.’ Or, in other words … a plan.

Incident Response Is Important

With cyber breaches involving scams with ransomware or data theft as an increasingly common outcome, I couldn’t help but think about all the clients we have helped in the past few months, especially since the beginning of this pandemic. Our industry-recognized leadership through our incident response teams has kept us extremely busy.

From my assistance on several of those incident response moments, it’s clear that some entities did little planning. Equally of consequence, many more had limited experience in testing their plans prior to a breach event, which costs a lot more to remediate than they had anticipated. And, that says nothing of reputational impacts once the crisis is over and there’s nowhere to hide.

That aside, it was clear from some of Hyder’s other comments that the pandemic which we continue to manage, both in terms of opportunities but also in regard to threats, is extremely consequential for Canadian business.

“We see millions of hack attempts per week affecting our members,” says Hyder, who added that outside of the first priority of protecting employees, CEOs in Canada are very worried about the “integrity of our systems” in this time of unprecedented change.

In this eye-opening conversation, there is probably no other statement that captured his concern more than “it’s critical to ensure that employees working from home are not compromised; that the data is not compromised; that [people’s] information is not compromised.”

At issue for Hyder, and reflective of the premier business community he represents, is that actioning concerns pertaining to risks is a priority.

“This can hurt a corporation’s stock price, brand and reputation, and so our CEOs are focused-in on that,” he says.

As we went back and forth in addressing what’s at issue today and what can be done about it, I asked him a question on what I often refer to as the “indivisibility of privacy and security.” His response was consistent and clear of mind.

“The bar is very high on this, as society is very unforgiving,” notes Hyder. “That is why for CEOs, corporate reputation is on your plate every day.”

This was very reassuring to me. What I know from my conversations with CISOs and CIOs, as well as their teams in both the public and private sectors, is that business is now driving security into everything that is being imagined or undertaken. And, most importantly, that privacy is now a driving force behind getting the security calculus right.

In Conclusion

As we looked toward closing off our conversation, Hyder notes that as we accelerate the roll-out of new products and services “we need to act with some level of urgency on this digital front … as demand grows, so will the risks.”

He was right on so many issues, but on that last point it was a moment of foresight on par with his choice of a thesis topic of ‘Policy Making in Times of Crisis.’ The reality is that we all want to avoid being in that moment.

Join me, Ray Boisvert, security associate partner with Canadian Public Sector, at  Think Summit Canada, on Oct. 22, 2020 at 11 a.m. EDT. I will connect with peers, clients and influencers to discuss cyber defense in the context of our ‘new normal,’ as well as how organizations can emerge smarter and more cyber resilient.

The video interview was recorded on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, and the opinions shared by the speakers are based on prevalent circumstances at that point in time. The opinions expressed in this interview/video represent the thoughts and views of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the thoughts/views of IBM.


Ray Boisvert
Associate Partner, Canadian Public Sector, IBM Security

Ray helps IBM clients in public sectors across Canada to identify and mitigate threats and risks with an integrated and modernizing approach. He brings to b...
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