Cisco’s Robbins says key to enterprise security starts with good hygiene

As corporations, universities and governments face the threat of ransomware attacks and security breaches, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins says the problem isn’t that there aren’t security systems available to protect these entities from attacks, it’s that human behavior is making them possible. “The technology is there. The security products are there,” Robbins said. “But human behavior has to follow. Most attacks are made possible by bad hygiene.”

Robbins made these comments during a wide-ranging interview today with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius as part of the publication’s series on the country’s post-pandemic recovery. Ignatius said security was top-of-mind for many as President Joe Biden meets today with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss, among other things, recent cybersecurity attacks.

Robbins added that employees need to be trained to protect the enterprise similar to how homeowners secure their house. “Employees have to lock the doors and set the alarm,” he said, adding that behavior is often the biggest issue with these security attacks.

That also means changing passwords when prompted or upgrading software when there’s a new version. “I think if technology companies tell you to upgrade the software, you should do it. It’s important to have the hygiene discussion and it’s important to stay updated,” Robbins added.

He added that he believes the best security for enterprises is a hybrid cloud approach where some applications are protected in the cloud and others, such as intellectual property, are protected on-prem. “That’s why we talk about the hybrid cloud. Most companies are using both,” he added.

Rural connectivity

Broadband connectivity is in the spotlight right now as the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the disparity between those with high-speed connectivity and those without. When asked whether to existing $1 trillion infrastructure plan that is currently being discussed in Congress would impact Cisco, Robbins said that he believes that broadband is a key part of the infrastructure plan and will be important to his company.

Regardless of what happens in Congress, Cisco is making moves to improve rural connectivity. The company announced it is launching a Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina that will showcase the company’s technology.  The center is being funded through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration Program and Cisco is devoting $20 million to the project.

Robbins said that Cisco wanted to create a place for smaller, independent connectivity providers to come and be able to work with the technology. “All the great new technology we’ve announced will be on display there,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Cisco has worked on expanding broadband access to rural areas. The company has worked with many government groups, including the city of Dallas, the city of Toronto, Canada, the state of Arizona and several local governments in Michigan to provide Wi-Fi access and cloud security technology to communities.

Robbins also used the Washington Post event to push lawmakers to consider more public-private partnerships.  He noted that companies like Cisco are doing a lot of innovation but often the business model of a publicly traded company prevents it from investing a lot of time and money in something that might have a smaller return on investment.  Those areas may be better suited for a public-private partnership.

Related: Cisco CEO: Work-from-home a struggle mentally for people

Interestingly, when asked about Cisco’s plan for having its workers return to the office, Robbins said that in the U.S., Cisco employees will start returning July 1. But he added that the company will move slowly with only about 5% to 10% of workers returning initially.