The cloud simplifies, improves automation, says Virginia’s CISO

While integrating cloud services into a government organization’s technology environment can on the one hand increase its complexity, it can also streamline operations, particularly around cybersecurity, Virginia Chief Information Security Officer Mike Watson says in a recent video interview.

“The nice thing about cloud though is the infrastructure is an integrated one, so you’re not taking, a lot of times, a whole bunch of different components that weren’t made to interact with each other and sticking them together, like our typical cybersecurity approach has been,” Watson says. “The nice thing about the cloud infrastructure: it was built with security in mind, which means there’s a lot of integrations and hooks together.”

That integration allows technology leaders a more “holistic” view of what’s going on in their environments, he says. Tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning are also frequently designed with the cloud in mind, which Watson says allows “for more automation and efficient review of what’s going on.”

“We’ve got so much data coming into us constantly, even if we had enough folks around they still wouldn’t be enough to look through every single record, everything that’s coming to us every second of the day,” Watson says. “No person is going to be able to go through all the bits of data, but computers are really good at sorting through data, so we want to leverage that to the best of our ability.”

Watson on how government’s attack surface is changing:

“In Virginia we spend a lot of time trying to figure out whenever it is we introduce any new service or digital environment, what type of security controls come with that environment.”

Watson on balancing modernization with security:

“That is a constant challenge because security can’t be a hindrance to the business and we don’t want it to be a hindrance to the business. We want it to be as transparent and seamless as possible, which means we are working hard to introduce new technologies and get as close to the data as possible for protection.”

Watson on automation and emerging technologies improving cybersecurity:

“We want to be able to utilize those same types of techniques — artificial intelligence and machine learning and other automation components — to make sure that our approach is as efficient and effective as possible.”

These videos were filmed at the Fortinet Security Transformation Summit, produced by FedScoop and StateScoop, on December 3, 2019.