As a corporate sponsor for the Harvard Business School Alumni Association of Boston (HBSAB), I attend many great events that the association has hosted. It’s quite a range of events from dinners and happy hours, to talks and panels on interesting and current topics, to rock star speakers and business leaders like Jeff Immelt and Greg Norman.
I’ve been fortunate to be on panels for some of these events – specifically two cybersecurity panels that have been hot topics, and one of the reasons we started our Cybersecurity Consulting division at Biscom.
Just a few weeks ago, I was honored to moderate a panel on a topic I feel strongly about – namely privacy and security concerns that we all face in today’s information-centric society. As online citizens, we are constantly offering up some of our most private information in order to transact business, shop, or simply be part of the new social fabric. But where is all that information stored? How do we know whether the trustees of that information are truly protecting our data?
This would be my first time moderating a panel so I turned to famed Harvard Business School professor and friend Ben Shapiro for advice. I’ve gotten to know Ben over the years and have always admired his ability to exude such calm and confidence, and also create a highly dynamic and interactive session, whether it’s a case he’s presenting, interviewing Jeff Immelt, or moderating a panel. While he gave me some great practical tips, such as remembering not to talk too much since people are here to listen to the panel and not me, or how to bring people together if opinions diverge too much, I think his best advice was to just have fun with it.
The panelists for the privacy event included John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, HBS Associate Professor Leslie John, and attorney Steven Richards from Nixon Peabody, LLP. I couldn’t ask for a better group – smart, inspiring, and they all had such a great way of connecting with the audience.
Here are the key takeaways from the event.
First, we certainly live in a time when our personal information is scattered throughout the cyberverse, sometimes intentionally, sometimes it’s been stolen and sold, so pay attention to what information you’re providing online, and if you are a victim of a data breach, make sure you know how to protect yourself.
Second, it’s only getting worse – our online lives are only broadening and deepening, and breaches are continuing to increase at an ever-increasing pace. So, set your expectations accordingly.
Third, there are some concrete steps you can take to protect yourself – increase your cyber-hygeine by monitoring your financial institutions and your credit, use good passwords (the conventional wisdom has changed a bit – instead of numbers and symbols, it’s better to just lengthen your password to make it harder to brute force your way in), and get educated on how to identify potential malware, scams, and social engineering attacks.
At the end of the hour and a half, we found that we had way more questions from the audience than we could answer in our short time together. It demonstrated how important this topic is, and how large the scope of the problem is – we could have spent the entire night discussing this.
I do want to thank our wonderful panelists again who were simply amazing – they made my job easy – and the HBSAB organization for putting this event together for the HBS alumni community. Looking forward to next year’s event!