To act requires comprehension first. Although businesses are facing increasing cyber threats from every direction in modern times, the expertise needed to understand the threat is scarce at the C-level associateship. This predominantly affects the strategic planning of the organization, and being underprepared for a business, becomes a major source of risk with a liability.
An understanding of what a cybersecurity threat means for the business and the solutions it needs to adopt to mitigate the risk is required. This is what Christopher Leigh, the Chief Information Security Officer at Eversource, has been striving to achieve. He has been leveraging his expertise to communicate effectively and translate the cybersecurity lexicon into business speak.
Christopher has over two decades of domestic and global experience in leading cybersecurity teams. He has a strong background in building and expanding diverse internal cyber security programs, improving cultures of security, and communicating risk reductions through all management levels of the company.
Currently, he is responsible for all aspects of information security, including Threat and Risk Management, Policy and Compliance, architecture, and Incident Response. Christopher is also an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University and Boston College. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Community Solutions, Incorporated, where he continues to endeavor to disseminate knowledge on the topic of cybersecurity and corporate leadership.
Christopher is a high-energy, customer-focused cyber and corporate executive with over multiple years of global experience in safeguarding the company’s systems and data in the electric, gas, and aerospace industries. He was named one of the ‘Top 100 CISOs’ by Cyber Defense Awards in 2020.
CIOLook caught up with Christopher in an exclusive interview regarding cybersecurity’s importance in the modern world.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Chris, please brief our audience on your journey to being the CISO at Eversource. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
My career has been focused on the Aerospace and Defense and Electric/Natural Gas utility industries. I have been in the Information Technology field for over 20 years, spending the last 18 years in cyber security.
Having Finance and, subsequently, IT experience has helped me develop a balance between technology and business. Many IT security leaders have strong technical skills. However, if you can’t understand business issues and communicate the risk to the business, then you will never be adequate.
I would say that over the past five to ten years, management has begun to value the CISO because we are able to communicate with business leaders. So, I appreciate everyone who has coached and mentored me throughout the years to help me get to where I am now.
Can you guide us about the Eversource mission and vision?
Eversource is the provider of the largest electric, natural gas, and water utilities in New England, servicing over 4 million customers across the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Our corporate vision is to continue to deliver safe and reliable electricity, natural gas, and water to our customers.
We also plan to be carbon neutral by 2030. Because our employees live in our service territory, they are members of the communities we serve. Our greatest asset, our employees, spend significant time volunteering in the community. All of these efforts will result in a cleaner, more reliable energy future.
Please enlighten us on the contributions you have made in the cybersecurity sector.
My contributions to the cyber security industry are varied. In addition to my primary job at Eversource, I have focused on educating the future workforce through teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Education of the future workforce, through real-life experiences, can help students connect the dots between the textbook and the real world. By getting to know the students, we are also able to identify interns who most often become employees after graduation.
I have also been able to work with industry and government officials to increase the amount and quality of threat intelligence that is shared between the government and the industry. This sharing of information allows organizations to better understand the threats and subsequently prepare to prevent and or respond when they occur.
Will you tell us about the values and the work culture that drives Eversource?
We value dedication to our communities and customers. Our diverse employees are dedicated and committed to delivering the best service possible. In the office, we strive to have a balanced work-life environment. This commitment ensures we deliver on our objectives to serve.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
The Electric, Gas, and Water industries leverage technology to deliver high-quality, reliable services to our customers. We are enabled through technology to manage the power grid better and ensure safe water and natural gas delivery. The available information allows control operators to react faster to changing events and to make more informed decisions.
Technology also enables us to communicate through different channels with our customers. Our customers are using technology to access their information and to interact with our employees. However, some customers prefer to talk to a person or interact over the phone. Providing different options enables us to reach out to more people on their preferred methods.
What change would you like to bring to the cybersecurity industry if given a chance?
Electric, Gas, and Water industries are considered to be part of the Critical Infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. The industry and the Federal Government need to continue to improve their relationships and share more information to make informed decisions and to secure their systems better.
What, according to you, could be the next significant change in the cybersecurity sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?
Across the world, organizations are facing various supply chain challenges. This ranges from access to technology to the security of the technology being acquired. In my opinion, industries and companies such as Eversource will continue to work with suppliers and vendors to ensure they are following best practices for producing reliable and secure products.
There also needs to be improved information sharing on vulnerabilities. While there is a need to have a fix developed when announcing a vulnerability, many nation-states already know of these vulnerabilities before they are public. If the vendor can make the industry aware while they are finding a fix, then monitoring and mitigating controls can be developed. We have to work together to fight the adversary who wants to do us harm.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals?
I am very fortunate to be doing exactly what I want. Eversource is one of the best companies to work for. My work is challenging and rewarding. I have an excellent work-life balance, and the time I spend volunteering and teaching at the college level is personally satisfying. I hope to be doing exactly what I am doing for many more years, helping others.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the cybersecurity sector?
I would suggest to first know yourself and your likes and dislikes. Then find the path that best fits you. We need to be curious, humble, and always willing to learn and grow. Even the most senior executive must always be willing to learn and develop professionally and personally.