17 Tech Leadership Lessons Learned from the Equifax Breach - Part 1
October 18, 2017

Electric Cloud recently hosted a special episode of Continuous Discussions (#c9d9), featuring Gene Kim and speakers from the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit San Francisco (DOES17). In light of the recent Equifax breach, Kim and the speakers dissected the situation and discussed the technical leadership lessons learned while offering their own expert advice for handling crisis situations.

The panel included:

■ Carmen DeArdo, Technology Director at Nationwide Insurance

■ John Allspaw, (former) CTO of Etsy

■ John Esser, Senior Director of IT and Data Center Operations at AdvancedMD

■ Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop

■ Scott Nasello, Senior Manager of Platform and Systems Engineering at Columbia Sportswear

■ Anders Wallgren, CTO of Electric Cloud

The following is a list of the 17 most memorable takeaways:

1. Failures and breaches can happen at any moment – leaders should take an investigative approach, explains Allspaw: "How much attention did vulnerability patching get up until the day before (the breach)? If I was the leader of this organization, part of my job is to create the conditions such that the organization can bring their attention proportionally and understand what the trade-offs are."

2. If you can't responsibly protect a certain part of your business, then you have no business trying to monetize it, per Kim: "I think the other thing in this scenario is, I would actually want business leaders to truly understand that this is an existential risk. The outside threat has never been higher, it's always escalating and it is actually left unaddressed. This is an existential threat to the business model. If we can't responsibly hold PHI, then our ability to make money from it should be put into jeopardy."

3. Kersten is particularly peeved by the narrative around the breach: "What's so disturbing about the narrative here is that these leaders of these companies are not understanding that they have an organizational responsibility to managing their IT stack. That stack is how they're delivering value to their customers and how they're exposing their customers' data or safety."

4. It's important for the person responsible for a system failure to step up and take responsibility, says DeArdo: "You have to accept responsibility not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it allows you to start talking in a way of not only what we can do for our customers but what we can do to our culture and our systems. If you don't take that responsibility, not only does this send the wrong message, but it doesn't let you move towards fixing things."

5. Nasello on the finger-pointing nature of the response to the breach: "[The ownership component] figures quite prominently in the DevOps transformations we're trying to do in our companies. It rings hollow if you're not really willing to own the consequences and outcomes of the transformation that you're trying to drive, and I think that lack of authenticity is going to hurt companies when they're trying to attract and retain and grow their organizations."

6. The Equifax breach was an organizational-wide failure, per Esser: "What happened here was truly an organizational failure all the way up and all the way down. Any security auditor would pick up on these things in a basic audit. The question would be is how long some auditor was saying, ‘We have a problem.'"

7. Elaborating on what he calls "normalization of deviance," Wallgren says: "We've been running with struts for so long and nothing bad has happened – maybe we'll be able to keep doing. It really is a systems failure and maybe there needs to be a NTSB-like function for these kinds of problems where you have an independent fact-finding, probable cause finding situation. We're never going to find out what the real problem was at Equifax."

8. Lead by example – what you do as a leader will become the new standard, explains Nasello: "As leaders of organizations, the things that we tolerate become standards as well. Our organizations and the teams that we lead are very observant in terms of what we tolerate and the examples that we set. We undermine ourselves a lot by acting differently than what our words are, and so authenticity and really being clear on what the principles of the organization are and what you're really trying to achieve is primarily a leadership function."

Read 17 Tech Leadership Lessons Learned from the Equifax Breach - Part 2 for more highlights from the discussion.

Watch the full discussion below

Share this

Industry News

May 19, 2022

Jellyfish announced the launch of Jellyfish Benchmarks, a way to add context around engineering metrics and performance by introducing a method for comparison.

May 19, 2022

Solo.io announced the addition and integration of Cilium networking into its Gloo Mesh platform, providing a complete application-networking solution for companies’ cloud-native digital transformation efforts.

May 19, 2022

Aqua Security announced multiple updates to Aqua Trivy, making it a unified scanner for cloud native security.

May 18, 2022

Red Hat unveiled updates across its portfolio of developer tools designed to help organizations build and deliver applications faster and more consistently across Kubernetes-based hybrid and multicloud environments.

May 18, 2022

Armory announced public early access to their new Continuous Deployment-as-a-Service product.

May 18, 2022

DataCore Software announced DataCore Bolt, enterprise-grade container-native storage software for DevOps.

May 17, 2022

DevOps Institute, a global professional association for advancing the human elements of DevOps, announced the release of the Upskilling IT 2022 report.

May 17, 2022

Replicated announced a host of new platform features and capabilities that enable their customers to accelerate enterprise adoption of their Kubernetes applications.

May 17, 2022

Codefresh announced that its flagship continuous delivery (CD) platform will be made accessible as a fully-hosted solution for DevOps teams seeking to quickly and easily achieve frictionless, GitOps-based continuous software delivery in the cloud.

May 16, 2022

Red Hat announced new capabilities and enhancements across its portfolio of open hybrid cloud solutions aimed at accelerating enterprise adoption of edge compute architectures through the Red Hat Edge initiative.

May 16, 2022

D2iQ announced a partnership with GitLab.

May 16, 2022

Kasten by Veeam announced the new Kasten by Veeam K10 V5.0 Kubernetes data management platform.

May 12, 2022

Red Hat introduced Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9, the Linux operating system designed to drive more consistent innovation across the open hybrid cloud, from bare metal servers to cloud providers and the farthest edge of enterprise networks.

May 12, 2022

Couchbase announced version 7.1 of Couchbase Server.

May 12, 2022

Copado added Copado Robotic Testing to Copado Essentials.