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EPISODE 259

IronNet Founder Keith Alexander Stands Sentry Over Companies’ Cyber Defenses

44 minutes · September 20, 2021

As the first leader of the U.S. Cyber Command, four-star Army Gen. Keith Alexander recognized that safeguarding America’s cybersecurity compelled collaboration between the government, private sector, and our allies. After a career that also saw him lead the National Security Agency, Gen. Alexander is leading a new team at IronNet (NYSE: IRNT) that’s bringing the power of collective defense to the private sector. On the show, he talks about his career and his new mission facing new threats.

Speaker 1:

From the library of The New York Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in New York City, you're Inside the ICE House. Our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership and vision in global business. The dream drivers that have made the NYSC an indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week, we feature stories of those who hatch plans, create jobs, and harness the engine of capitalism. Right here, right now at the NYSC and at ICE's exchanges and clearing houses around the world. And now welcome Inside the ICE House. Here's your host, Josh King of Intercontinental Exchange.

Josh King:

We've been privileged over the last three plus years of the show to have welcomed those who served in leadership roles in the Armed Force of the United States who are now leading in different ways in the private sector. Two years ago, as you may recall, Admiral John Richardson, then the Chief of Naval Operations and my old friend when he was President Clinton's military aid, stopped by for a long conversation. Then [Steven Dafran 00:01:09], another graduate of West Point, serve his country in command and staff positions in the US Army, and now serves as President of Dun & Bradstreet. And that's our NYSC ticker symbol DNB. And just a few weeks ago, we welcomed retired four-star Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander, James Stavridis, who splits his time between being Vice Chairman of The Carlyle Group and is a bestselling author of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War.

Josh King:

Stavridis knows everyone loves a good thriller, no matter how harrowing it may provide as a cautionary tale about America's vulnerabilities in the near future in the area of cyber warfare. Fiction has shifted along with world events, often mirroring the threats, crises, and perceptions that governments and intelligence agencies face today. And today, foreign governments, state sponsored actors, or even a neighbor down the street can all be plotting to access information that they shouldn't have. Proximity is no longer a concern. The internet eliminated borders, but in so doing it also exposed us to potential threats all across the globe.

Josh King:

Many of us have felt the implications of these attacks, whether it was waiting in a long line to get gas after a ransomware attack exploited a breach in the pipeline delivery system or on even a more basic level where an account was skimmed and credit cards needed to be canceled and reissued. Our guest today, General Keith Alexander, continues in the addition we've established of looking at the follow on careers of senior Armed Forces alumni. He was deeply engaged in the business of secrets and also responsible for our national foreign intelligence requirements, military combat support, and the protection of our digital and communications infrastructure.

Josh King:

He said that for him, cybersecurity is personal and made it his mission to focus on the importance of collectively defending ourselves. General Alexander saw early that securing cyberspace is a team sport and requires the work of our government, the private sector, and our allies. His 40 year career in uniform focused on protecting the country in cyberspace from threats, both foreign and domestic. As a four-star general leader of the National Security Agency, the commander of USCYBERCOM, he's now using the experience and the skills he's honed in public service to deliver on the power of collective cybersecurity by defending companies, sectors and nations. Our conversation with General Keith Alexander is coming up right after this.

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Josh King:

Our guest today, General Keith Alexander, is the founder, chairman and co-CEO and president of IronNet Cybersecurity. That's NYSC ticker symbol IRNT. A global cybersecurity leader transforming how organizations secure their networks by delivering the first ever collective defense platform operating at scale. General Alexander's career culminated as director of the National Security Agency. And while serving as NSA director, he was appointed by Congress to be the first commander to lead the U.S. Cyber Command, establishing and defining how the United States protects itself from cyber attacks. Welcome, General Alexander, inside the ICE house.

General Keith Alexander:

Thank you, Josh. An honor to be here.

Josh King:

You started at the US Military Academy at West Point, the oldest of our five American service academies overlooking the Hudson River. I go to Michie Stadium at least once a year with my kid to watch the Black Knights play football. I know you've shared that your father served in the Pacific. What drew you to West Point and to a career in military service?

General Keith Alexander:

Being really honest, I didn't know much about the military and I had got a scholarship to Syracuse and a scholarship to Purdue, and my mother convinced me to try out for West Point. So I did. I got accepted and the reason I chose it to be completely transparent is they pay you to go there. And I thought, "Wow, I can make money and party on the weekends." I missed that part about partying on the weekends, because what I found out is your first year, you don't get to party.

General Keith Alexander:

But it also, it was a great opportunity. You learn about our country. You meet and have tremendous friends and you think, "Wow, there's a greater purpose in life than thinking about yourself. What can you do with your friends for the good of our nation?" So it actually was a transformational period for me coming out of high school, being a person who did these things to now looking at life through a different lens. One about there is a lot of pride and satisfaction in doing something not necessarily for money, but for the good of nation. So that was for me a tremendous turning point.

Josh King:

You were part, sir, of a Cadet class that would include several other future four-star leaders, including David Petraeus, Skip Sharp and Marty Dempsey, whose wisdom about leadership I follow every day on Twitter. You began to focus your training though on more technical parts of the US Military, and eventually began working on signal intelligence at several NSA facilities across the US and Germany. What attracted you to technology and SIGINT?

General Keith Alexander:

You have to serve a detail, which is in one of the actually combat [inaudible 00:07:48]. So I started out in armor, but then as you noted, went into the intel community. And one of the things I found out, it was extremely challenging. At that time in the mid seventies, we were at the height of the Cold War. I was in Europe where things were going on between East Germany, West Germany, Czechoslovakia, West Germany. The issues with the Russians in the US. This was at a real high point.

General Keith Alexander:

And I learned a lot about what's going on, what intelligence community do, where we are as a nation, and the Cold War that's going on between those nations. It was fascinating to learn that. I tell you, I love that work. It was amazing. And the ability to go down to the tactical arena and serve in a division, getting to do that for 1st Armored Division and in the first Desert Storm. And then go all the way back up and see what you can do at the national level. It's really an amazing opportunity and something that when I was at school at West Point, I never dreamed I would be doing.

Josh King:

You've shared in terms of some of the bad times, General, that the devastating 9/11 attacks, which we're commemorating the 20th anniversary this month, were a pivotal moment for the country, but also forced us to reckon maybe with some of our vulnerabilities, how we collected, shared and acted on intelligence, the ability to spread information across those who need to know within the government. Can you talk about some of the lessons that the intelligence community took away from that day and how it's shaped how we think about these threats now?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, I think the leaders of the time in the intelligence community recognized that they weren't able to quote, connect the dots. And the reason is, is that the agencies oftentimes work in a more isolated manner and that was changed right after 9/11. So there are two outcomes of 9/11 that I'd put on the table for you to think about. One is how our intelligence community began to work together and the lessons they learned.

General Keith Alexander:

I had the opportunity to take over in 2005 and see how that transformed with the relationships with CIA, FBI and NSA, tremendous. That was great. The other part was after 9/11, as a military member, I ran the intelligence and security command, the Army's intel command. And then I became the army intel chief, and it was with great pride that all members of the military looked at 9/11 and that picture of the firemen and the policemen holding up the flag and the military taking it and say, "We've got it from here."

General Keith Alexander:

And that's something everybody in the military took to heart. We got, we'll take care of this. I think everyone you talk to, whether it's Dave Petraeus, Marty Dempsey, Skip Sharp, all these folks that worked in that area, Bill McRaven, Stan McChrystal, all this group, they're going to tell you they took that to heart. We're here for the good of this country and we'll make a difference. We're going to take care of this. That will not happen again. And I think that's really important for our nation.

Josh King:

And I think over 20 years, while we have engaged in the wars overseas, we've certainly not seen an event like 9/11 on the American homeland. But General, you served as the 16th director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service across two presidential administrations. The NSA's mission involves collecting, monitoring, processing inordinate amounts of data to provide the intelligence that those agencies that you mentioned, like FBI, also need to protect the homeland and also protect US information and our communications networks. Over the course of your service at the NSA, how did the mission change and adapt over those few very critical years?

General Keith Alexander:

I think the biggest change occurred in 2006 and 2007. When we went to Iraq and we looked at how intelligence from NSA was being used, we found out it took too long. And by the time it got there, it was historical in nature. And we also saw that our troops were taking increased casualties. The rate was going up at a significant part. Dave Petraeus was in charge over there. I talked to him about, "I think there's a better way to do business than to bring in the information back to NSA." We had a great team working this with a bunch of huge experts that put a lot of time in. And they came up with a way, "We think we can shrink it from 16 hours getting our information back to them down to a tenth of that." And they went, "Actually, they got it from 16 hours down to one minute with the real time regional gateway." That system helped actually capture more than 3,950 bad guys in one year and it broke the back of the resistance.

General Keith Alexander:

So what it showed me is that we can make a change. We can do things if we think outside the box and go fix these problems. And it comes to cyber when you think about cyber. When I took over in cyber, it's the same thing. We've got to look at this problem set and say, "We can't accept the norm." Having SolarWinds hit 18,000 companies or the Chinese hit 30,000 companies, that's unacceptable. That should not happen. We as the commercial sector and our government need to work together to go fix that problem. And so when I was in government, I felt empowered to make things like that happen. And when I got out, I thought, "We don't need to just stop. That mission can continue and we can help." And so that was one of our mottos for our company, the mission continues.

Josh King:

Right. I mean, the mission continues, sir. And you took your 40 years in military and retired from the NSA. And some people might have at that point maybe just walked away or like General Mattis did, retreated to books and also serve on the boards that he found interesting. But you decided to focus your energy on a new project and founded IronNet Cybersecurity. What led you to the private sector and what did you set out to accomplish when that began in 2014?

General Keith Alexander:

I think at times you might say, "What were you thinking? Why did you want to go do that?" And the answer really comes down to, if we're going to make a change, all the companies I talked to about making the change, they would say, "That's not what we do." They would pay me a lot of money to come work for them or come and be in a senior position, but it was to do a specific set. My comment was, "Here's what our nation needs to go do and we don't do that." Well, who does that? Nobody does that. Well, [inaudible 00:14:48] do that. And the answer in my mind was yes. I actually had the privilege and honor of talking to Ray Dalio from Bridgewater, who would become a great mentor for me. [inaudible 00:14:59] lending, I didn't know who Ray Dalio was, what Bridgewater was, but he was a great person to talk to.

General Keith Alexander:

I went out there and he was talking to me about coming to work at Bridgewater and I was talking to him about what we need to do for our nation. We had dinner at his house. And over the next couple hours, we talked about that and he said, "That is an important thing and perhaps the most important thing that you can go do for our country." So I see a lot of people out there who want to go fix this problem, who want to address it. It's not easy, but our nation needs to do this.

General Keith Alexander:

We need to fix how we do cybersecurity. Every company cannot stand alone as it does today. So that's what we embarked on. And I thought starting a company to go do that was the right thing to do. I'll be honest in that when I started off down that road, the first thing is how hard could that be? Oops. Okay. Who would've known? And then the second thing is you think, "Okay, I've had 50, 60,000 people working for me. Now it's different. You got to raise money. You got to do all these things. You got to be profitable." So I've learned a lot. It's too bad I couldn't jump backwards. I could probably knock off a couple of years in some of these areas.

Josh King:

As you are inferring, you don't have this feeder system of the US Military and the US Army to bring the best and the brightest up who are ready to serve under you as part of those 50,000 people. Brass tax, how do you start with this blank whiteboard I have behind me and say, "I'm going to start at a company?" Even with Dalio's support, what do you do in 2014?

General Keith Alexander:

Yeah. So it was kind of interesting. When I came back from my trip to New York City and to Stamford, Connecticut, I sat down and said, "Okay, so if I'm going to do this, I'm going to need to go after." And so I had some good friends, [Dr. Jim Heath 00:16:51] and some others that I called up and said, "Hey, I think we should go do this. What do you think?" And they said, "I'm in, I'm in." And so I actually was able to talk to folks that had been retired that were out there in the community and to bring together a group of five, then six. And several had just retired out of the military. General Brett Williams and Colonel George Lamont had retired out of Cyber Command. And I said, "How would you like to go do this?" And they both signed up. They became co-founders.

General Keith Alexander:

And so we had this group of folks who said, "Okay, here's what we're going to do." And it took us a while to get that... We're going to go create something new and we're going to sell that, and we're going to have all this and that. So how do we do that? We actually bootstrapped the company for about 18 months, because we did both consulting and development of a product. And it was the development of that product that if you think about it, going from hardware, on site, to the cloud is going on at the same time. So we're focusing on the hardware. Now all of a sudden we got to transition to the cloud. So there was a lot that we learned and that's why I say knowing what I now know, I could probably shortcut that, but I think it was valuable lessons that will pay us off in the long run.

Josh King:

I mean, talking, sir, about the development of the product. With so much of the world working online now and the ubiquity of various cyber attacks, there has been certainly a proliferation of cybersecurity firms. Just to put that into perspective. The New York Times reported that investors have poured approximately $12.2 billion into cybersecurity companies this year alone. What sets IronNet Cybersecurity apart?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, we have a unique mission and that mission is to be able to not only detect, prioritize and remediate certain types of events that no one else can see, but to share that anonymized information amongst companies so that we have collective defense. There's two analogies here. First, build a radar picture so that we can see the attacks on our country, share that among companies. And if you can anonymize that data, share it with the government so that they can see the attacks that are hitting our nation.

General Keith Alexander:

And the second part, when you think about 90 mid-sized banks as an example with maybe 10 people each in [inaudible 00:19:15]. Today, they're focused on their problem. They're trying to keep up with it. Every year the amount of information, the number of applications, the number of devices is doubling. They can't keep up. And down the street is another bank with 10 people [inaudible 00:19:31]. So when you look at that, what if those 90 banks, instead of having everybody work, what if they worked together? You'd have 900 people just in that one sector working on the problem, crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing. That's the future of cybersecurity. So what we do is we bring the capability and the tools to make that happen. And we believe that will change the way we think about cybersecurity. And when you think about it, we're using the power of the network to actually empower the defense and bring that public and private sector together.

Josh King:

You've been talking about the future of cybersecurity. Let's pivot a little bit and talk about the future of finance 2020 and 2021, sir, could be thought of as the years of the SPAC. Your company is certainly part of that. August 27th of this year, IronNet Cybersecurity completes its combination with LGL Systems Acquisition Corp. Why was taking your company public now so important?

General Keith Alexander:

It was a great set of discussions that Bill Welch, our co-CEO and I had. So do we take this opportunity? The conventional way would be do perhaps a [inaudible 00:20:48] round, go another 18 months and do this. But our thought was, "Look, we have a unique capability and we're the only player on the field. Let's take advantage of that early adopter capability and that technical advantage and accelerate." So our decision was, we'll go the SPAC route, we'll go public. And in doing that, we can accelerate what we're doing. We get the money that we need and we get the publicity, the marketing, and the other things. With the New York Stock Exchange and others so that we can show where we need to go and accelerate through that. I think that's hugely important for what we need to do. We need to get people to see how this will work and I believe we're going to break out in that area over the next 12 months in a significant way.

General Keith Alexander:

That breakout not only in terms of number of customers, but in all the things that we have going on, will help people see, "Wow, okay. I now understand when you talk collective defense, it's far different than normal people think about. It is building a real time picture of threats to our sectors, companies, states, nation, so that we can see what's going on in time to react." When I was the commander of US Cyber Command and secretary gates and Panetta said, "What are the problems?" My comment is, "You expect me to defend the nation. I cannot see attacks on this country. The consequence, we're not going to defend it. We're only going to do incident response. If we're going to defend it, we have to see the attacks in time to stop it." That's the portion that we couldn't do and that when I got out, I was so concerned about. It's the reason we started this company. Let's go solve that problem and help defend this country. So the mission continues for us.

Josh King:

Talking about the breakout and what Panetta, when he becomes secretary of defense, says to you, IronDefense, one of IronNet Cybersecurity's products is one of the industry's most advanced network detection response platforms, a field of cybersecurity that really allows organizations to monitor network traffic for these malicious actors and suspicious behavior and react to this asymmetric threat that you may be getting. What kinds of customers are you working with and what's their use case with the technology?

General Keith Alexander:

So the ones that we're working with right now, not solely limited to this, but by and large, it's critical infrastructure. I think energy, finance, defense industrial base, government, state governments. And then there are tech companies that are coming into that as well. It started out interestingly with the energy sector. I met with several CEOs of major energy companies at their request and what they were looking at is they said, "We're responsible for defending the grid. We need help. We want to work with you." That part in and of itself, that was in 2017 in January timeframe when these five energy CEOs and their CSOs came together and met with us. And we said, "I went through this process and explained what I thought we need to do." And one of them said, "We're in." I thought, "Wow, I haven't even finished my speech and you're already in." He said, "Look, we need to go defend the grid."

General Keith Alexander:

That gave me two things. One, a group of people who are singularly focused on helping this country and defend it, and partners that would help us navigate and go through this. So interestingly, the energy sector has really led that way of collective defense. They work together in a really real time way. Where others pass information, they actually create the infrastructure to share information at network speed. So that's what we did there. So it started with them. Defense industrial base, the finance sector, and those are growing. We're seeing state governments come in.

General Keith Alexander:

So I think that's the breakout. And when we see it, when I talk about an acceleration, we're talking about bringing in not one company at a time, but 10 or 50 companies at a time. And when we do that, these are companies that are saying, "Okay, we're coming in as a group to go do this, because this is how we think we should work together." That part for us, I think, is the acceleration that we'll need. And as we show the capability to do that, people are going to step back and say, "Wow, I can't buy enough people, but if I work with my peers in this area, I can get enough people to defend and we can share it with the government. Why wouldn't we do this?"

Josh King:

Another one of your products, sir, is IronDome, the first automated cyber solution that delivers threat knowledge and intelligence across industries, really machine speed. The system leverages machine learning and AI to deliver real time visibility of cyber threats. Why is understanding these attacks as they evolve so important?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, so this is the radar picture that we talked about. IronDome is that picture and what it does is it allows companies that are pushing data in there to see what's hitting other companies. It allows them to see, "Wow, I have all these events and alerts in common with all these different companies. And because I can write something that's happening here on this event, somebody else can give me an update on what they're seeing. I'm all of a sudden sharing knowledge. I'm sharing that knowledge and crowdsourcing. I'm learning. I might not have the best expert in this area, but four other companies are already working on it and I can learn." So that knowledge sharing and crowdsourcing and being able to see it. And because it's anonymized, there's no content of communications, no name of company, no personally identifiable information or intellectual property, it can be shared with the government and the government can see the sectors at large, without specific companies and say, "Wow, the energy or the finance, the defense industrial base is being attacked. We can now do something about it at speed."

General Keith Alexander:

When you think about going from World War I to World War II, look at the evolution of airplane and look at Billy Mitchell and what he was trying to get people to understand what's going on with the aircraft, how this was going to become an element of warfare, and how it was going to change the way we fought in the Pacific, how we changed the way we thought in Europe and actually help win that war. The new technology coming in that's going to change the face of warfare, cyber. We now have the merger of the public sector and the private sector in this area because we all exist on the same network, we share information and we're vulnerable. If we don't work together, we will be defeated. And our adversaries are going to use this space against us just as the evolution of aircraft, and then the aircraft carrier and other things, just as that changed the face of warfare in World War II.

Josh King:

We've talked about General Mitchell on this show before. IronDome and IronDefense form the basis of the collective defense community. And this is what you've been talking about, this sharing of information. Is that a term that has caught on yet and should it so that people can see how it really is this, if it's proper to say, a partnership between private companies and the government?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, I think it's catching on. You can see in the Solarium report, it actually was mentioned in the Solarium report of doing just that. So it's one of the findings of the Solarium report going to collect their defense. And it's really helping to educate people on what we're talking about. What is it that we're really saying here and how is that different than sharing? So we can share, but we're talking about real time sharing based on an eventing engine that actually detects anomalies that you would normally not see and understanding those at speed to do something about it and attack. That's what we've got to get really good at for the defense of this nation and our allies.

Josh King:

After the break, we're going to dive deeper into General Alexander's thoughts on the current state of cybersecurity, his board involvement, and where the future's going to take us and that's all coming up right after this.

Speaker 3:

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Josh King:

Welcome back. Before the break, General Keith Alexander, founder, chairman, and co-CEO and president of IronNet Cybersecurity and I we're discussing his background, the founding of IronNet Cybersecurity and the intelligence community. General, on IronNet's website, you focus on the work that you do with enterprise defense, healthcare and energy and utility companies. Can you walk us through the kinds of customers that you're partnering with?

General Keith Alexander:

Yeah. So those were the initial ones that we started. Recently, we just started a space dump. So we look at a community like the energy sector, we call it the Energy Dome. The defense industrial base, the finance sector state. And now we started one, a space dome. As you can see, we have a number of companies that are now in the commercial sector going into space, helping build the International Space Station, the commercial side. Think of Axiom sending unmanned missions to the moon. Think of Intuitive Machines and other companies like that. These are companies that are now coming into and helping our nation accelerate exploration in space and all that goes on. So we've built a [inaudible 00:30:50] and we've got several companies. That's growing significantly over the last couple of months. We've had several companies come into that. I think that's going to be a big part of the future and they're ones with tremendous intellectual property and tremendous vulnerabilities that we have to work together between the public and private sector to help protect.

Josh King:

Cybersecurity has been in the news cycle so often over the past couple of months, General. At the beginning of the year, we learned that a Russian espionage operation compromised at least 10 federal agencies in more than 100 US companies. You mentioned it at the beginning of our conversation. There's also the attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which threatened the East Coast fuel supply, a ransomware attack on a meat processing giant, and so many other incidents that have been in the news. Curious, what makes you and your colleagues so eager to get back into the conference room, around the whiteboard and focusing on the issue of cybersecurity becoming so much more pronounced? Or are people paying more attention to this issue? And our understanding is, "Okay, I'm curious what you think the biggest threats are."

General Keith Alexander:

Well first, I do think both the public and the private drive on cyber is increasing significantly in the SolarWinds and the Colonial Pipeline attack and the JBS attack on the food processing help underscore the importance of cyber. And you're seeing the administration address that head on, something that they have to do because of the number of companies. 18,000 from the SolarWinds that were hit, 30,000 from the Microsoft Exchange attack.

General Keith Alexander:

When you think about that, what it says is we've got this big problem. Nation states, in that case, it's been attributed to Russia, SVR, on the SolarWinds and to China on the Microsoft Exchange. These are nation states that are attacking us to conduct missions. And the problem comes right back to what we were just talking about. Our country can't see it until it's too late. So bringing in a capability like we're talking about here to go for protect that and share that information with the government would allow us to push back on a Russia or a China that's trying to do it.

General Keith Alexander:

As we go into it, China's, I think, objective was continue to get access to intellectual property. I believe Chinese theft of intellectual property is to greatest transfer of wealth in history. We are not going to get them to stop by just saying, "Please don't take our intellectual property." We need to defend it. And that's where working together is going to be important. Numbers that I've seen exceed $500 billion a year in theft losses for intellectual property. This is huge. It's our future. That's the future innovation for this nation and they're stealing it. We need to stop that and the only way I can think of is by working together in this area.

Josh King:

In may of this year, President Biden issued an executive order on improving our nation's cybersecurity. And at the end of August, I think I've just seen video over the last couple days, he hosted executives from many of the major tech, financial and energy companies for a summit on national cybersecurity. President at that event in the East Room estimated that almost half a million cyber security jobs in the US remain unfilled today and called upon the help of the private sector to better safeguard our assets. Can you talk a little bit about what you see as the contribution to US economic output from the work that your firm is doing and others?

General Keith Alexander:

Well first, I think the good news out of that are all the big companies all weighed in and said, "We well help. Period." Every one of them came back with, "Yes, we're going to help do this." The harder part is if you look at the number of jobs that are vacant, getting those people trained and ready to go, that's hard. We should push to do that, but recognize when we get 5G and some of these other technology, it's going to be an order of magnitude more difficult. Now you'd have to have 10 times as many people. This is going to be tough. So collective defense, knowledge sharing and crowdsourcing have to be part of that solution, part of that future.

General Keith Alexander:

So we need to address it like that as well. I think having the President and these other big companies come together, eventually bringing the cybersecurity companies together as well to address these problems is going to be a key part of helping navigate that for our country. I think training between the public and private sector, war game training, how are we going to defend it? Has to be part of that solution. I look at how our army actually improved in the eighties by training at the National Training Center with real like training. It was amazing. It helped us in Desert Storm. We need to do that now between the public and private sector in cybersecurity and train like that and go after these bad guys, attribute them and hold them accountable.

Josh King:

My dad, General, is a retired pediatrician and probably over the course of his 60 year career, all the information that he took down was basically manual, pen on paper. COVID-19 has put an incredible amount of strain on healthcare workers and systems over the past year. These ransomware attacks that I mentioned have made it difficult for doctors to keep track of critical patient information, forcing some of them to revert to my dad's age and paper instead of digital systems that they normally use. Can you tell us about some of the work that IronNet Security is doing in the space?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, one of the things that we're doing, it's kind of interesting. You're right. When we go to now work from home, the attack infrastructure is increasing for companies. So think about it, instead of having your whole network here within a small area where your company normally operates, now it's across this wider area. So you have an increased footprint. You have increased reliance on the cloud. And so you have to do a series of things to secure not only the network and the way companies communicate, but what they're doing in the cloud, and bring those two together. And so that's one of the things that we're working on here and that we work. It's how do you do both? Most companies now have one foot in the cloud and oftentimes multiple cloud vendors. That's the future. And so we've got to stay with that. That's that transformation I referred to quickly in our earlier discussion. We saw it going from on-prem to the cloud, and that's going to continue.

Josh King:

Talking about the work in the cloud, sir, about a year ago, Amazon announced that you'd been elected to the company's board and would serve on its audit committee and now we're almost a year into your work at Amazon. How did you become involved with the company and what is your work with Andy Jassy and his team look like today?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, I'll tell you it was a great honor and privilege to be nominated and selected to serve on that board. I can't talk about what goes on on the board, but I'll tell you amazing people. I'm really impressed with their culture, their obsession of the customer, their every day is day one, the way they approach it. So much of that is relevant to any company. So I think I learn more than I actually can help. I think that's what every board member there says. We learn a lot more than we help, but I think it's a great board, great people, and an honor to be there.

Josh King:

You've mentioned that, and I talked about it in the open, sir, that for you cybersecurity is personal and we share things on the internet, expect some degree of privacy from the government, and also expect to be protected by the government from malicious actors. How should we be thinking about these competing interests and what role does the government and the private sector play in this?

General Keith Alexander:

So I think key and perhaps most importantly, the government has a responsibility for defending us in the physical space and there's no reason why not in the cyberspace as well, especially as we look at our nation's wealth, intellectual property, financial wellbeing. It's all increasingly going to that network. It's going into the digital realm. And as it does that, it becomes an increasingly bigger target for adversaries and becomes more important for our government to defend it. But if the government's going to defend it, they have to be able to see the attacks. And so the private sector has to work with the government to share anonymized threat related information about attacks, so the government can do its job and private companies can do their job. In doing that, that gives you the best of both because that gives you the opportunity to share knowledge, crowdsource and to defend collectively. Otherwise, every company out there is going to be on its own. And fighting on your own, you're going to be defeated by these nation states.

Josh King:

So many of us, sir, have to do a lot of the fighting on our own in our own homes as we manage this raft of passwords and accounts that we all have. We're asked to make a password for just about everything that we do online. So just on a personal level and maybe a little bit away from the company, but you, given the lifetime that you spent in guarding information, what's the best way an individual can stay safe these days on the internet?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, so I think they should be aware of phishing campaigns. It's interesting. One of our friends was phished and when that came to us, I asked my wife if she saw that email. She goes, "Yeah, it's a phishing email." I said, "Wow. She picked that up right away. That was great." So training and understanding the threats. I think having a good password manager is important so that you can have really good passwords for all of your applications. I think that's usually important. Having a company that looks at your online activity for banking and other things to see if something's awry and you see that with many companies out there now that do that. I think those are extremely important and things that I encourage my children and my friends to do, and I do them. So that's as my personal stuff, do the right hygiene, recognize that you can be a target, that you want to put all this stuff up, you want to manage your system right, you want to go through this, spend a little time, learn what you need to do.

General Keith Alexander:

Get the tools. It does cost a little bit of money, but it's not that much. And have those tools out there so that you have a LifeLock or one of the companies like that, or LastPass or one of the companies like that come up with a way of doing that and then make sure your family understands those activities and what's going on. And what's reckless behavior on the network, just going out there and going to sites, it could be bad. Answering emails when you have no idea who it is, those are things that, for our children, our grandchildren, how you educate them and train them.

Josh King:

As we wrap up, we said at the beginning in our conversation, General, that you've once said cybersecurity is a team sport. I believe you were also part of your high school track and field team. We talked about the announcement, I think, just this week about you're welcoming Intuitive Machines into the first Collective Defense Community for space. What's the next event over the horizon for General Keith Alexander and IronNet Cybersecurity?

General Keith Alexander:

Well, I think it's growing and expanding these collective defense IronDomes, if you will, bringing those together and helping to build the bridge between the public and private sector so that we can actually demonstrate how a nation can defend itself in cyber. I think that's the real key. That's where we got to get to. That's what I see coming up. As we gain momentum, I think that's going to be the thing that will help really accelerate this whole process and what I see in the future.

Josh King:

Gaining momentum for IronNet Cybersecurity. General Keith Alexander, thanks so much for joining us Inside the ICE House.

Josh King:

And that's our conversation for this week. Our guest was General Keith Alexander, founder, chairman, and co-CEO and president at IronNet Cybersecurity. If you like what you heard, please rate us on iTunes so other folks know where to find us. And if you've got a comment or a question you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show, email us at [email protected] or tweet at us @ICEHousePodcast. Our show is produced by [Stephan Caprille 00:43:36] with production assistance from Pete Asch and Ian Wolf. I'm Josh King, your host signing off from the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. We'll talk to you next week.

Speaker 6:

Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources and not independently verified. Neither ICE, nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve or endorse any of the content herein. All of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing here in [inaudible 00:44:10] to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security or a recommendation of any security or trading practice. Some portions of the preceding conversation may have been edited for the purpose [inaudible 00:44:20] clarity.

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Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources, and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve, or endorse any of the content herein, all of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or a recommendation of any security or trading practice.