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Preparing For The Future When Even Change is No Longer Constant

FEATURE / 05.22.17 / John McClurg

In a post two years ago, I made a case for optimism, engendered by what I see as growing proactively-predictive capabilities of cybersecurity. And I sustain that optimism even in the face of exponentially accelerating rates of change in our world.

At that time, I’d just finished a fascinating book called The Second Machine Age by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, which examines the impact of digital technologies driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. The authors identify a confluence of advances that are reaching their tipping points, producing inspiring personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to information and cultural content that enrich our lives.

Yet these digital technologies – with hardware, software, and networks at their core – also bring wrenching change, upending professions of all kinds and forcing businesses to transform or die. The authors cite some rather unsettling economic indicators precipitated by this shift: fewer people working, and, in some instances, wages falling even as productivity and profits soar.

The authors and I, nonetheless, share an optimistic outlook—though from somewhat different perspectives. Where Brynjolfsson and McAfee see clear strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity, I see generally a less predictable future, as the rate of change continues its exponential advance in the increasingly connected world of the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Looking Ahead to a Connected World

The future states that a connected world will produce cannot be fully anticipated— the only certainty, I suggested at the time, is that change of some form or another is coming. I still think that’s exciting and presuppose that the unanticipated future states are just as likely to prove beneficial to me, and to society as a whole, as they are to be prejudicial.

An insight I’ve gained in the intervening two years, is that change… which I then touted as the only constant… is itself now changing—an insightful point advanced by Kevin Kelly in his book The Inevitable. In his book, Kelly outlines twelve technological trends that are changing how change is now presenting itself and impacting the ways in which we work, learn, and communicate.

Embracing the benefits of these new technologies—while protecting sensitive or proprietary data with strong, end-to-end security, allows us to sustain a positive, proactive posture toward what we can then reasonably anticipate will be a beneficent future, even as relentless change makes it increasingly uncertain as to what exact form that beneficence might take.

I see the path to prosperity as one that prepares us for inevitable, ever-evolving change, without requiring us to necessarily predict the future. Predicting the next piece of malware through the strength of artificial intelligence and machine learning and our genomic map of the internet is, for now, enough for me. 

Enterprise technology (including cybersecurity solutions) should not just allow for change, but encourage it. New approaches to data security, with access controls embedded into data itself at the point of creation, will keep a step ahead of the ever-changing tactics of cybercriminals and threat actors. Such end-to-end security—that is simple, efficient, and connected—is a fundamental component of the future-ready enterprise.

How agile and prepared for change is your organization?


John McClurg
VP and Ambassador-At-Large at Cylance

John McClurg

About John McClurg

Sr. Vice President and CISO at BlackBerry.

John McClurg serves as Sr. Vice President and CISO at BlackBerry. McClurg engages the industry around the globe on the risk challenges today and how BlackBerry uniquely mitigates them with the application of machine learning and other AI supported solutions. He champions a move from a historically reactive security posture, to one focused on proactively predicting and mitigating future risks.

Before BlackBerry, McClurg served as the Ambassador-At-Large of Cylance and as Dell's CSO, where his responsibilities included the strategic focus and tactical operations of Dell’s internal global security service. He was also charged with the advocacy of business resilience and security prowess, the seamless integration of Dell’s security offerings, and with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of security initiatives.

Before Dell, McClurg served as the VP of Global Security at Honeywell International; Lucent/Bell Laboratories; and in the U.S. Intel Community, as a twice-decorated member of the FBI, where he held an assignment with the U.S. Dept of Energy (DOE) as a Branch Chief charged with establishing a Cyber-Counterintelligence program within the DOE’s newly created Office of Counterintelligence.

Prior to that, McClurg served as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, assisting in the establishment of the FBI’s new Computer Investigations and Infrastructure Threat Assessment Center, or what is today known as the National Infrastructure Protection Center within the Dept of Homeland Security.

McClurg also served on assignment as a Deputy Branch Chief with the CIA, helping to establish the new Counterespionage Group, and was responsible for the management of complex counterespionage investigations. He additionally served as a Special Agent for the FBI in the Los Angeles Field Office, where he implemented plans to protect critical U.S. technologies targeted for unlawful acquisition by foreign powers and served on one of the nation’s first Joint Terrorism Task Forces.