What’s the most important aspect of improving cybersecurity?

A)    Implementing state-of-the-art technology that works;

B)    Re-engineering the processes that businesses use to apply appropriate security policy; or

C)    Changing the security culture in an organization.

Most experts think the answer is C. Why? One leading security consultant said that despite the fact that beneficial organizational improvements require changes in people, processes and technology, more than 90 percent of the difficulty is in modifying behaviors of end users, systems administrators and even senior management.

Whether or not you agree, this leads to other vital questions: What is your government doing to impact the security culture? How can we, as security and technology leaders, motivate, influence and impact thousands of people? What really works, and what activities bring the greatest ROI for our time and money?

Cyberimprovement Answers

A typical response is to offer employee training, which most governments provide to meet compliance requirements, and updated security training for technical staff. Many leading companies even bring in professionals who specialize in building organizational change programs.

But I’d like to suggest a more focused and personal approach: Find a mentor from another part of the country or a seasoned security pro who can mentor a recently appointed security leader.

Mentoring works because it allows newer leaders to learn from their predecessors’ mistakes and successes. Numerous studies and white papers have shown the benefits of benchmarking. Having a mentor can build some of that same synergy, but on a more personal level with someone who is trying to help you become more effective.

In 2009, Forbes magazine answered the question: Who needs an executive coach? Here’s the beginning: “Executive coaching is hot. What was once stigma (‘You’re so broken you need a coach?’) has become status symbol (‘You’re so valuable you get a coach?’). Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps have coaches. Even President Barack Obama has a coach, if you count David Axelrod. Microsoft’s young, high-potential leaders get coaches. If elite athletes and organizations think they need coaches, shouldn’t you have one too?”

The article states that coaching isn’t for everyone, but excellent candidates are important leaders who have evolving roles that greatly affect an organization in powerful ways. Other experts said the keys to successful mentoring include: a willingness to learn and be mentored; an openness to discuss sensitive work-related topics; selecting a mentor and mentee who aren’t in the direct management chain; and giving the relationship the appropriate priority with a reasonable time commitment.

MS-ISAC’s New Mentor Program

 This year, the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC)  the center for sharing cybersecurity threat and response information  launched a one-year mentoring pilot program in which nine state and local security professionals are mentors and nine newer cybersecurity leaders are being mentored by someone outside their state.

Participants mainly include chief security officers and chief information security officers, but a few junior leaders also are seeking to improve their security skills. The pilot comprises monthly phone conversations as well as face-to-face discussions at the MS-ISAC Annual Meeting.

The mentoring program has several objectives, including:

Improve the useful sharing of security best practices and organizational insights on what really works among state and local governments.

  • Strengthen the MS-ISAC community by building stronger personal ties among members.
  • Enhance the careers and professional opportunities available to participants.
  • Encourage an open exchange of ideas and questions in a nonthreatening environment.

Build a government security culture that improves cyberdefense nationwide by making the people a priority.

In conclusion, Seneca once said, “Even while men teach, they learn.” I am looking forward to learning, as a security mentor.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Michigan's Chief Security Officer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The postings on this blog are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006