Defense expert stresses importance of cyber security at Jacksonville University discussion

There are two types of companies in the world: Companies that know their information has been breached and companies that don’t know their information has been breached.

A room of about three dozen people at Jacksonville University received that warning Thursday as Tom Kennedy spoke about the business of cyber security as part of the Davis Leadership Forum.

“Everything is connected, and everything that is connected is vulnerable to cyber security,” said Kennedy, chairman and CEO of the third-largest defense contractor in the world.

Kennedy’s own security detail cordoned off the building during the hour-long speech, then quickly escorted him off the campus in a sport-utility vehicle with dark tinted windows.

He emphasized the fact that even though a company isn’t noticeably leaking information, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t already been hacked and the culprit is waiting for the most opportune time to access sensitive information.

At Massachusetts-based Raytheon where the international aerospace and defense company did $24 billion in sales in 2016, Kennedy focuses most of his attention on protecting his customers from threats against their information.

Kennedy warned the room about four major entities that should worry anyone with information they would like to keep private. Nations, criminal activity, “hacktivists” and employees are the four biggest risks to information, he said.

Kennedy said employee risks can be broken down into groups of good employees who have poor cyber hygiene and rogue employees who have detrimental agendas. The best way to stay on top of both types of those threats is to invest heavily in cyber security.

The industry will continue to become much more important as technology advances, Kennedy said.

He gave the example of autonomous cars sharing information as a problem the world will face in the relatively near future. Vehicles will be sharing information as they drive down the road, and if someone hacks into the grid they will be able to inflict all sorts of problems.

A community of smart homes was used as a prime example of something that will appeal to criminal activity in the cyber world. Someone could cause the pipes to freeze by turning off the heaters in all the homes, Kennedy said, then they would be able to benefit in any number of ways.

He encouraged business owners to work with software, mechanical and electrical engineers to ensure cyber security on any project going forward. A solid cyber foundation can be advantageous against competitors who do not take the same precautions, Kennedy said.

“I think the bottom line is we have to be aware of what we are doing in the cyber domain,” he said.

Kennedy spent time in the Air Force before joining Raytheon, but he encouraged a handful of college students in the room to pursue careers in the cyber security realm.

The defense industry is constantly scrambling to hire as many cyber security professionals as possible, Kennedy said, and they can never seem to find enough candidates to fill the positions.

Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308