Cybersecurity influenced the election, and could influence your business

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More than a month has passed since Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States, yet controversy surrounding the election continues to dominate headlines. From President Obama’s investigation of the Russian theft of American emails to Hillary Clinton’s private email servers, these last few weeks have been nothing less than chaotic. What’s more, a recent study from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that just eight percent of news coverage during the election centered on policy and issues.

However, no other topic has captured the American public’s scrutiny or speculation more than Hillary Clinton’s email. The reason being: it hits close to home. The Russian hacking controversy has most certainly led many of us to question whether we’ll see continued use of digital weaponry in the future, but for the most part, hacking and cybercrime can be hard to comprehend. Email, on the other hand, invades both our personal and professional lives. 

{mosads} Government employees have not particularly excelled at separating their work and personal accounts. From Hillary Clinton to Colin Powell to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, we’ve seen plenty of confusion over personal and private emails. It’s not going away anytime soon: Donald Trump reportedly would like to keep his Android phone once in the White House. And if Russia can hack the Democratic National Committee’s emails, it’s only a matter of time before other nation states hack additional members of the U.S. government. In fact, there is still no evidence that Trump is using secure communication (is another email scandal on the way?), and we’ve already witnessed such a situation with last year’s Office of Personnel Management data breach, which was a case of simple contractor password theft.


Many of us — private and public sector employees— find it difficult and disruptive to log in and out of dozens of personal and work accounts and apps, across multiple devices. And while people are often held up as the first line of defense for security, we simply can’t remember dozens, or even hundreds of passwords that include combinations of letters, numbers and symbols.

In order for our government agencies and businesses to be competitive, flexible and cost effective, we’re working outside the four walls of our office and we’re bringing on more cloud and mobile technologies. Lack of choice can be a security threat in itself.  When there are antiquated technologies in place, or tools that don’t meet the needs of a team, people often take matters into their own hands, using the tools and apps they need to get their best work done. My own marketing team has gone rogue, using Slack instead of the collaboration tool we already had deployed.

But the new administration, government agencies and businesses don’t have to choose between productivity and security. And frankly, we can’t afford to given the incredible cost to our national attention, the threat to national security and potentially even the threat to democracy itself. Cloud-based identity services now enable agencies and businesses to make intelligent security and access decisions. While people are the weakest link in data security, their identity can be the first and strongest line of defense. When you start with the identity of a person — who they are, where they are, what their role in an organization is, what they should and shouldn’t have access to — you can solve a huge range of problems across every device and every service that a person encounters at work.  You can strengthen the password. You can separate proprietary data from personal data. You can have personal and work email on one smartphone. You can block or deny access to data and apps based on location or habit. You can allow employees to use any device they choose. You can even allow an employee to protect their own apps and services — the fewer passwords they have to use and remember, the stronger your defense.

Could identity have changed the course of the election? We’ll never know. But it can certainly change the course of government agencies and businesses today.

Todd McKinnon is the CEO and co-founder of Okta.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags cybersecurity Donald Trump Hacking Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio Technology Todd McKinnon
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