Rich Owen is the principal contributor to Johnny Security Seed, LLC. He began his cyber security adventure in the in the Army Security Agency (ASA). The primary customer of the ASA was the National Security Agency (NSA). In the ASA he performed the duties as an Electronic Warfare (EW)/Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) systems repair supervisor. SFC (E-7). He has B.S. degrees in Management and Computer Science from the University of Maryland.
He developed several information security programs to include:
- Mission Operations, Johnson Space Center, NASA, where he worked for Gene Kranz, Mr. Failure is Not an Option, (reference the movie Apollo 13)
- Texas, Office of the Attorney General
- Early Warning Services
- American Traffic Solutions
- Cable One
While at NASA, Rich was awarded the “Silver Snoopy” by the astronauts for the program that he created to protect the information and computer systems upon which their lives depended. He and his team were given a Continuous Improvement Award by the NASA Administrator, for doing so and avoiding over $25M in cost.
Rich has also contributed to the profession and information protection industry. He contributed to the creation of many standards and solutions that we use today. Accomplishments include:
- Harold F. Tipton Lifetime Achievement Award – (ISC)2
- Information Security Hall of Fame – ISSA
- Past international president – ISSA
- Distinguished Fellow – ISSA
- Honor Roll – ISSA
- Fellow – Ponemon Institute
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Rich Owen: Johnny Security Seed is the company that I created when I retired after being a cybersecurity professional for over 50 years. The name comes from a statement where I said that I would go anywhere (within reason) anytime (within reason) to talk about protecting people and companies from the “Evils of the Internet”. The seed for helping others comes from when I was teaching college at night while working at Johnson Space Center.
One day I was on a trip from Houston to Austin and I stopped by a fast-food place. The lady behind the counter said, “I know you. You are the professor that taught me about computers. Today is my last day at this job. Tomorrow, I start a job using what you taught me.” You can’t put a price on feedback like that. My intent at Johnny Security Seed is to provide the same guidance to all based on my training and experience.
I have written a book for the average user, “Your Personal Information is at Risk: A Guide for Protecting Yourself”. It is a collection of phone, email, message and social media scams; how to recognize them and what to do about them. While writing this book I began the creation of my “Cyber Security Sam” series of books which are written to motivate young people to enter the cybersecurity profession, where we have a shortage of qualified people.
It is a collection of stories about a high school student who ends up working with the FBI to solve cybercrime. My most recent book, “The Alchemy of Information Protection: A Cybersecurity Druid’s Spell Book” was written for non-cybersecurity people so that they may understand the importance of their information and their role in protecting it.
It is also a process and roadmap for anyone who is tasked with creating a program to protect the company’s information. If is full of practical examples and war stories of issues I encountered in my cybersecurity journey.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Rich Owen: I began my business in mid 2020 which means I have been dealing with all of the normal start up issues. The work from home issue hit me two-fold. First, my son who lives with me is now working from home in my office. That provided extra stress to my business, especially as much of what I do is via virtual meetings.
Working from home made people more receptive to meeting and consulting and presentations online, although I am old school and miss the in-person interaction. This enabled me to give presentations to conferences and schools across the country on computer science and cybersecurity.
The key here is to adapt with the environment. Regretfully, this remote activity, I believe, has put many businesses more at risk of a data breach. Also, management of a remote workforce is a challenge that is new to many.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Rich Owen: My focus is data protection. With the pandemic, there has been the massive movement to work remotely. The main issue here is providing the tools and data needed to do the job while protecting the data from loss. Monitoring and managing a remote work force is also a challenge when it comes to training and motivating people to be aware of how they are handling the company’s information assets.
I specifically cover how you should address this in my latest book, “The Alchemy of Information Protection”.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Rich Owen: The pandemic, of course drove people to work remotely. That is added risk to the company’s information assets. At the same time, businesses are collecting and processing more information, especially about individuals, which adds an increased risk of a data breach. Most marketing of new products and services is via virtual presentations.
This has changed the way many security conferences are handled as well. We are missing out on the in-person interaction and sharing of war stories at the bar after and between presentations at conferences. The pandemic has drastically impacted the lateral transfer of knowledge and experience between professionals.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Rich Owen: I was fortunate. I was a Chief Information Security Officer at a business when the pandemic started. The responsibility for remote access for the company was part of my job. We had been following the trend of more people wanting to work from home. Management was not for it much before the pandemic, but we saw the trend and created an architecture that could expand to meet the needs of the business.
The issue still existed for IT to provide the devices to use this connectivity from home. As mentioned in my latest book, information security needs to understand the needs and trends of the business and be prepared to meet those needs. The key is in what access is allowed by whom, when and from where while ensuring that only authorized access is allowed. The field of information protection is like playing defense in football, we have to handle whatever the business and environment throws at us.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Rich Owen: The toothpaste is out of the tube! That being said, we may have gone too far in many cases. I believe that there will be a small focused re-migration back to the office, even if only for a couple of days a week. The lack of the face-to-face personal interaction is hurting the business.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Rich Owen: I live in front of my screen! That means 8-10 hours a day and often times many hours on weekends. Except when I go in-person to security events in my area, I am in front of my screen.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Rich Owen: My latest book is full of those war stories for how I handled many security issues. those stories are also in presentations. I don’t have a current one from this remote activity.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Rich Owen: This is the Information Age. Information is the “Coin of the Realm!” That means that in my business I need to say focused on where the company information is, who need to access it to provide the solutions to meet the needs of the business.
It helps to be a little intuitive to catch trends in my company and industry of changes that are coming so that I can continue to meet those needs, when they change. Change in formation security is constant because of the change in technology, change in the needs of the business and the change in techniques of the hackers.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Rich Owen: I am constantly learning, but my focus is to help others avoid the “Evils of the Internet”.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Rich Owen: I left in July 2020, only to retire. It was a combination of having worked in corporate America long enough, being at the age of retirement and wanting to help those who were missing out on critical security awareness.
I know many people who have left my field because of the stress, and lack of management support. For example, I actually had a boss in a previous job tell me that if we have a cybersecurity incident that he will just fire me. He was not interested in protecting the data, just interested in protecting himself.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Rich Owen: My focus is to get people and businesses to see that information is a vital asset like people, money, buildings and equipment. Once you realize that, you can then define ways that you can meet the needs of your business and protect that asset. That again is the focus of my latest book.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Rich Owen: From my web page
If we keep one child or grandparent from being scammed, or one company from being hacked, or enable one business to be able to avoid a cyber event, we will have accomplished our mission.
Also, another key area of interest is motivating young people to enter the profession, thus the Cyber Security Sam series of books. They have been called the Nancy Drew of the Cyber World.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Rich Owen for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Rich Owen
or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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