Connect the Dots: Breaches are Bad for Business

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2015 12:00 pm

By Benjamin Akande

Early in February, Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance provider, disclosed that hackers had compromised its cyber security system, possibly gaining access to the names, social security numbers, birthdays, addresses and employment data of as many as 80 million customers.

The Anthem announcement was yet another reminder of the global vulnerability of cyber security systems.

A few months earlier, retail giant Target reported that hackers had attacked its system. Target was just one of many companies battered by cyber attacks last year. The U.S. Secret Service reported that hackers hit the in-store cash register systems at several large companies, including Target, Supervalu and UPS Stores. The Department of Homeland Security followed up with an advisory warning that the attacks were particularly pervasive. The Department added that the hackers stole data of millions of credit and debit cards from U.S. consumers. The companies apparently were not aware of the thefts at the time.

Authorities say the hackers sell the payment information of millions of U.S. consumers overseas on the black market. In the majority of the instances, these companies — and the consumers — are not aware of these breaches.

Cyber attacks are not confined to corporate America. Several municipalities around the country, including Columbia, Missouri, as well as federal government agencies such as the Pentagon have been casualties of these attacks.

As for Anthem, many observers see the recent attack as a wake-up call for the health-care industry and for the corporate world.

But in this high-tech age, cyber security breaches are a potential Achilles heel for everyone—businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. In addition to posing a significant risk to the bottom line of businesses, they also present a huge global security risk. The problems with cybersecurity only are likely to get worse. Forbes predicts that 2015 will be a big year for cyber attacks — just like it was in 2014 and 2013.

Like many farsighted universities around the country, Webster University has been taking steps to make the world more secure from hackers.

In the past year, the Walker school has declared its intentions to be a leader in preparing the next generation of cyber warriors to prevent and engage via a new master’s degree in cybersecurity management. The degree prepares students for positions in the public and private sectors, and for running or protecting computer systems, information, networks, IT infrastructure and communication networks.

Like most of our degrees at the Walker school, the MS in cybersecurity management is market-relevant. It is designed to teach the students how to solve and prevent problems for their future employers. Students learn how to use their practical and theoretical knowledge of cybersecurity to analyze real-world problems.

Such skills are desperately needed in today’s world.

Vast multi-national criminal networks continue to make huge profits from information stolen from large corporations and their vendors. The world’s leading law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, Scotland Yard, the U.S. Secret Service and Interpol, have taken great strides in trying to keep up with the criminals or stay ahead of them. But the criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and have invested considerable resources into staying ahead of law enforcement. Furthermore, they now have greater expertise and more access to purchasing tools online to subvert cybersecurity systems of large corporations.

The porousness of cybersecurity systems also poses a threat to national and global security. Hackers have targeted both sides of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Israeli military operations in Gaza.

Helping find solutions to such critical challenges is critical to the mission of any university. It makes institutions of higher education relevant and enhances their credibility with the general public. In this new and increasingly uncertain century, universities that fail to seize these opportunities to demonstrate relevance are doomed to fail.

Benjamin Ola. Akande is a professor of economics and dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology at Webster University.

Anxiety better for business than you think

Date: July 4, 2000
Publication: ST. Louis Post-Dispatch
Section: Editorial
Edition: Five Star Lift
Page: B7

There is no magic pill we can take, book we can read, or seminar we can attend that will instantly transform us into the greatest business leaders of all time. But according to Robert Rosen, chairman and CEO of Healthy Companies International, we all have something inside that, once harnessed, will make the difference between success and significance. It makes our palms sweat, our heads ache and our hearts pound. It's anxiety. And according to Rosen's new book, "Just Enough Anxiety," it's the hidden driver of success. You just have to know how to steer it.

Rosen calls anxiety an energy that propels us forward. And, if it is controlled in ourselves and for those who work with us, it is the most important quality a leader can possess. Having just enough prepares you for change and challenges that it brings.

Change is what business is about. It keeps companies going and businesses viable. Good leaders, says Rosen, understand this. Even though change might make them feel uneasy, they know that anxiety can be directed into productive and creative energy.

Great leadership, Rosen believes, is all about mastering the "human side of business." Those leaders who rise to the top are the ones who know the level of anxiety their organization can handle it and still be able to mobilize human energy to get the job done.

The balance between too much and too little is delicate. Too much gives negative thinking overwhelming power and prompts us to attack instead of to embrace change. Too little apprehension and we reject change altogether. It is here where the status quo lives with its neighbors: boredom and stagnation.

In the middle is "just enough" - where Rosen says we maintain our "balance in the midst of opposing forces." He likens it to a champion speed skater rounding a curve. Leaning in too far will cause even the best Olympian to fall. Not cutting the corner close enough means others will pass the skater by. But an athlete with the right mix of balance, speed and angle to the ice wins the gold every time.

Leaders with "just enough" find their balance in this yin and yang of uneasiness. They are not idealistic or cynical. Instead, they are optimistic and realistic. They find a middle ground between complacency and carelessness with impatient constructiveness. When others with too little anxiety are viewed as arrogant and those with too much are seen as self-doubting, the "just enough" leader conveys a humble, yet confident, persona.

How do you become a leader with just enough anxiety? In his book, Rosen first identifies different types of leaders, how others see them and how their actions can have an impact on their organizations. He also quizzes readers on the anxiety level of their organization. From there, he serves as a guide down a path toward balancing anxiety through knowing oneself, becoming comfortable with uncertainty, acknowledging anxiety, refusing to exaggerate uneasiness and allowing the ability to react to all emotions.

President John Quincy Adams once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." Robert Rosen says our actions can do all these things if supported with the dynamic energy that just the right amount of tension provides.

I recommend "Just Enough Anxiety" for any leader looking for an edge. In its pages, you might just find the perfect balance for you and your business.


'Just Enough Anxiety: The Hidden Driver of Business Success'

By Robert H. Rosen

Penguin Group, $24.95