Executives with a Pragmatic Position on Cybersecurity are a Rarity

Hitachi Innovation Forum.jpgThis week I had the honor of being an invited guest at the Hitachi innovation forum.  A panel of executives opened the conference with a theme of innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability.  The Chairman and CEO, Hiroaki Nakanishi, showcased the sizeable breadth of global products and industries of this massive conglomerate and emphasized how their solutions contribute meaningfully to the lives of people every day.  After highlighting their strategy to push further and do more with to improve mobility, energy, water, and healthcare of people around the world, he dared the attendees, including customers, industry experts and business partners, to ask questions and give their thoughts. 

It was a quiet and reserved audience.  Not every day does the leader of a $93B company ask for unscripted questions in a public venue in front of hundreds of attendees and media. 

For those who know me or read my blogs, you are likely aware I am neither shy nor am I reserved to play-nice at marketing events.  I am very passionate about cybersecurity and live for moments when we as an industry can constructively discuss security, the impact it holds on our world, and the role technology companies have in protecting our tech-rich future.

So I broke the silence, stood up, and asked the Hitachi executive panel a straightforward no-nonsense question: 
Hitachi solutions are connecting and enriching the lives of people around the world.  Your vision is truly inspiring.  But with such power and innovation comes new risks which put in jeopardy the security, privacy, and safety of your devices, solutions, and customers.  What is Hitachi’s strategy and commitment to secure and protect products and people in the future?

Before I get to their response, let me say I truly enjoy sitting down with business leaders from around the world and discussing cybersecurity issues.  In almost all cases, executives have the best of intentions, but are well groomed by their marketing and legal teams to recite vetted and scripted statements including how they are operating or making everything securely, put customers privacy first, and work hard to protect from the nebulous ‘hackers’ of the world.  This is the blasé norm and the expected underwhelming safe response.  I don’t expect anything different and I am rarely impressed.

But standing in front of this panel, I was surprised.

Mr. Nakanishi paused, took a deep breath, and gave one of the best answers I have heard from any industry leading executive.  He first commented on the fact it is an important question and a facet his company understands is becoming more significant.  With a genuine tone of concern and deliberate focus, he then answered they are striving to achieve harmony.  His viewpoint was Hitachi incorporates security, privacy, and safety in balance with customers’ expectations of value, usability, and functionality.  He went on to discuss how these expectations are a variable situation which changes over time.  He committed his company will strive for continuous incremental progress to remain ‘harmonized’ with the market needs.  The Chief Executive for Americas, Jack Domme, followed up with a supporting position of seeking the right balance of security to enable solutions in ways to both protect but not undermine their value.

Wow.  Harmony and balance.  This is the most pragmatic position for cybersecurity.  Whether we as customers consciously know it or not, this is what the market truly desires.  We must look past the peaks and valleys of security theatre, to see we all want technology to make our lives better and there is an optimal level of security which must align to ‘protect to enable’ in order to make it a reality.

I am always wary of the slick sales and marketing answers, which paint unrealistic positions and overinflated commitments, which are so common nowadays, to artificially smooth over public concerns.  None of that nonsense was present.

Well done Hitachi.  Thank you for recognizing the challenges, describing a realistic strategy, and talking in a direct and honest way.  Nobody has security figured out or solved all of the problems, but you have successfully recognized the right factors to tune for the very best results now and in the future.  You have earned this cybersecurity strategist’s respect.   

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Matthew Rosenquist

About Matthew Rosenquist

Matthew Rosenquist is a Cybersecurity Strategist for Intel Corp and benefits from 20+ years in the field of security. He specializes in strategy, measuring value, and developing cost effective capabilities and organizations which deliver optimal levels of security. Matthew helped with the formation of the Intel Security Group, an industry leading organization bringing together security across hardware, firmware, software and services. An outspoken advocate of cybersecurity, he strives to advance the industry and his guidance can be heard at conferences, and found in whitepapers, articles, and blogs.