Meet Cliff Unger (@cliffunger), Director of Channel Sales and Marketing at Belkin, a company that is the leading provider of connectivity solutions. Unger, who grew up in the Southwest and lived in Colorado for 11 years, is constantly seeking to improve Belkin’s technology and interactions. Unger sat down with WashingtonExec’s Marium Adnan to discuss cyber security, cyber attacks and what we can do to protect ourselves.
WashingtonExec: How does Belkin incorporate their key principles and values in their product strategy?
Cliff Unger: As an organization, Belkin focuses development and product design efforts at the intersection of people and technology. We’re curious; we want to know how people use technology and we seek to understand how we can improve those interactions. We look at environments and places where people spend their time, either working or at leisure. In these environments, we want to know the pain points, areas of lost productivity, frustrations and aspirations. This approach is what drives our innovation and product development, as evidenced by our recent product launches for the Public Sector. We spent months looking at the environments of leading Intelligence and Defense agencies and created products to improve the way these people work, while maintaining the inherent and necessary security requirements of those applications.
WashingtonExec: Recently both the White House and the Department of Defense have rolled out new cyber policies, with the DoD even declaring cyber attacks an act of warfare. What are your thoughts on these policies?
Cliff Unger: In theory the policies make a lot of sense; they are broad, far-reaching, relevant and timely. However, policy is typically more prescriptive and less thematic and neither of these policies are very prescriptive. Understandably, there is a security concern with sharing detailed information about these topics. While both the Department of Defense and White House policies touch on the important components of cyber policy, there is a lot that is still left to the individual agency to institute. I would expect situations where agencies institute the policies in very disparate ways. There also needs to be a continued focus on bringing these plans to fruition. Additionally, I don’t believe either policy recognizes the human component enough. They include training, education and the need for an educated and high-performing workforce as part of their plan but they do not mention the pure human element of things. We know that more than 60 percent of data breaches are caused by human error and that inherent risk is glossed over in both policies.
WashingtonExec: How do you see the future of cyber threats evolving? What is something everyone needs to know about cyber security?
Cliff Unger: I share the general opinion that these threats will continue to evolve from a frequency and complexity standpoint. The DoD policy is really focused on three types of cyber attacks: theft or exploitation of data; denial of service attacks that affect the operability of networks; and destruction action that threatens to “destroy and degrade networks or connected systems.” Recently, we’ve seen more sophisticated attacks, like Stuxnet, that really disrupt operational capabilities. I would expect those sorts of attacks to continue, but it’s unclear how they will evolve.
WashingtonExec: What do you think we can do to help minimize these threats as individuals?
Cliff Unger: The most important thing we can do as individuals is to be active participants in cyber security. We can’t rely solely on technology to do it all for us. It goes without saying that we actively manage software updates, that we maintain our virus protection and ensure that our hardware meets necessary requirements. But being an active participant means being a part of the end-to-end security approach. It’s incumbent on us to be aware and do our part to insulate ourselves from malicious intent. As individuals, we can’t expect the agency or policy to do all the heavy lifting.
WashingtonExec: What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
Cliff Unger: Growing up in the southwest and having lived in Colorado for 11 years, I am a huge outdoor enthusiast. I enjoy an array of activities such as snowboarding, hiking, camping, rafting, golf, cycling, and volleyball. I also enjoy live music and making some mean BBQ.