Written by Nick Horowitz, Account Director at Racepoint Global
Here’s something that’s true no matter who’s in power in Washington, DC: Once lawmakers realize an issue could affect them personally, it doesn’t take much for them to spring into action.
Over the past several months, America has watched as our political system has been affected by hacking and cyberattacks like never before. The hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta have been front page news both for what they’ve revealed and the fact that they seem likely sponsored by the Russian government. At the same time, Clinton herself has faced scrutiny from the media and her opponents over her use of a private email server and the handling of classified material during her tenure as Secretary of State.
Unsurprisingly, this string of events caused politicians to raise an eyebrow over the state of cybersecurity and broader IT policy at the federal level. And, this means that technology companies looking to make sure their voices and concerns are heard in a new administration and a new congress will need to be prepared to respond–and sometimes get out in front of—concerns regarding how to address our nation’s cybersecurity needs.
So what should technology companies do to prepare for 2017?
- Equip your experts: Make sure you have an executive who is well-versed in the cybersecurity challenges and concerns that most interest lawmakers. While a CIO may not want to be overly vocal on security challenges, lest they make their company a target for attacks,companies do need to be ready to address broad cybersecurity concerns when appropriate. Members of Congress, especially newly elected members, will be looking for expertise on how to craft the best cybersecurity policies. By making representatives from your company available as knowledge assets, you can gain real influence in upcoming fights.
- Set an example: Policymakers are going to be looking to see how top companies and brands address cybersecurity threats and those who have a clear, solid security program will be held up as examples for others, and our nation, to follow. Smart technology companies that create cybersecurity best practices and publicly advocate for them will be looked to for leadership. And, customers looking to place their data in safe hands will take notice of those who lead by example.
- Join the conversation: Even though policymakers won’t officially get down to business until early next year, that doesn’t mean policies are not being set in motion. Ensure that the cybersecurity and policy experts from your company are taking part in conversations, at events, in the press and on social media, to lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s cybersecurity agenda.
- Be prepared: Even technology companies who are not inclined to get out in front of issues publicly should be ready to act if Congress or a regulatory agency starts to move on cybersecurity issues that could affect how they conduct business. And if your company is called to testify in a hearing, you want to be fully prepared and confident in your testimony, not scrambling to put together the right talking points. In the event that legislation is introduced or a new rule is announced, companies should have a cybersecurity advocacy framework in place that allows them to quickly join the conversation and avoid being left behind.
- Advocate for the future: Many of our nation’s cybersecurity woes come as a result of technology outpacing policymakers. And when lawmakers are forced to play catch-up, as we assume they will in the coming months and years, they can sometimes create impractical or even burdensome policies in the absence of expert insight and guidance. Technology companies have a unique insight into where we’re heading, and with things like driverless cars and artificial intelligence right on the edge of taking off, companies can help elected officials create policies that keep us safe without sacrificing the pace of innovation.
When lawmakers return to Washington in January, cybersecurity concerns will undoubtedly be top of mind thanks to this election cycle. For lawmakers, this should serve as a wakeup call that these threats have real national security implications and that we choose to ignore them at our own peril. Technology companies face an opportunity and a challenge—their voices will be needed more than ever before, but they will also face new levels of scrutiny. Smart companies who want to help guide this conversation should begin to lay the groundwork today.