Jack Huffard, Tenable Co-Founder, on Changing the ‘Hacker’ Discourse and Staying Abreast of Disruptive Cyber Trends

Jack Huffard, Co-Founder, President and COO, Tenable Network Security

Jack Huffard, Co-Founder, President and COO, Tenable Network Security

It took more than Old Bay and blue crabs to get Jack Huffard to leave the Boston tech scene and say a more permanent goodbye to his Carrolton, Ga. hometown, to co-found a cybersecurity company in Maryland just over 10 years ago.

Huffard seized on the entrepreneurial opportunity at a time when there was no such thing as “the cloud” and the engineering of virtual and mobile networks still seemed like more than a distant reality.

Co-founded in 2002 by Huffard, president and COO, with Ron Gula, CEO and Renaud Deraison, chief product officer, Tenable Network Security was among the first cybersecurity companies to provide continuous network monitoring.

Today the company’s SecurityCenter platform (which includes its popular Nessus vulnerability scanner) safeguards networks used by the U.S. Department of Defense and many of the Fortune 500s.

Even the company’s name, meaning “able to be defended against attack,” speaks to Tenable’s self-assurance that it is well equipped to keep companies’ networks strong.

And while Huffard says no state’s climate will ever appeal to him in the way that “The Peach State’s” heat and humidity did, he has a lot on his plate here – driving revenue growth at Tenable and leading the company’s organizational growth and corporate strategy.

“If I had to summarize what we do simply, I’d say we help organizations identify vulnerabilities, reduce their risk and ensure their compliance,” Huffard told WashingtonExec in a recent interview. “One of the things that we’re really proud of here is that we are the first company to bring organizations true, continuous network monitoring, meaning that we allow them to monitor their entire network in real time.”

The Washington and Lee University graduate is keen right now on changing the discourse surrounding the word “hacking” and staying abreast of disruptive trends in cybersecurity – like the emergence of mobile network ecosystems:

WashingtonExec: Continuous network monitoring was disruptive when you and your co-founders first started providing it. What do you think will be most disruptive to the cyber security market during the next five years?

Jack Huffard: The thing that will impact the cybersecurity market the most is the emergence of new IT ecosystems that redefine “the network”– we’ve gone beyond traditional on-premises IT networks to now employing mobile and cloud networks as well. You have infrastructure-as-a-service ecosystems like Rackspace and Amazon AWS, you have software-as-a-service ecosystems like Salesforce and NetSuite. In addition, you have the mobile device ecosystems like Apple iOS and Android being used to interact with all of ecosystems. All of this together greatly expands the attack surface of “the network.” Today’s modern enterprise has and will continue to adopt these ecosystems and what that means to organizations, whether they’re small, medium, or large, is that all of these ecosystems have their own rules—iOS, Windows—they all have their own approaches to networking within their ecosystems. In order to get visibility and security across your entire network given this new IT landscape, it’s going to be a challenge for companies and a huge opportunity for us to help them meet that challenge.

WashingtonExec: What would you say is something most people misunderstand about cybersecurity, technology, hacking or the market in general?

Jack Huffard: The biggest thing that’s misunderstood is that most people assume they’re not targets. I think individuals; small companies and large companies alike are all targets now.

A lot of it has to do with the word “hacking.” We try not to use that word because it connotes sinister, underground, super-intelligent stuff. In reality, a lot of the cybertactics you’re reading about on the news right now are being performed by multinational criminal organizations and nation states with a global reach. I think if I had to say anything it’s all about understanding what’s happening on your network and making sure that when you buy a laptop or you deploy a network that you configure it correctly when you put it out there and you audit it regularly and do updates to ensure the latest holes are filled.

WashingtonExec: Your company is listed by the Washington Post as one of the best companies to work for in the area. What would you say sets you apart from the rest, in terms of your culture?

Jack Huffard: We have a really unique culture here, with regard to a combination of really hardworking and smart people, but also we have a great work-life balance. I think a lot of our employees would give you the same answer. We also make it a point to invest in personal development of our people. So we have a tuition reimbursement program that everybody is eligible for — to not only increase the skills they have now — but to make them even more marketable as they go through their careers.

Finally, our company is in a high growth state and I think one of the reasons we are seen as a good place to come to work is that there’s a huge potential for career advancement, just through organizational growth.

WashingtonExec: What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning?

Jack Huffard: I’m married and I have three fantastic sons under the age of 10, so my favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning is getting up and playing with them. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, soccer, or swimming, whatever it is, there’s no doubt I’m probably more active on the weekends physically than I am during the week.

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