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Fireside chat with Christopher Russell

Who is Christopher?

Christopher Russell is the Chief Information Security Officer for tZERO Group, Inc. He has a Masters Degree in Cybersecurity and just started his PhD in Cybersecurity focusing on blockchain security. Chris is also an ambassador for the AppSec vendor Snyk and an advisor for the VC Firm Nightdragon. Additionally, he is a combat Veteran of the US Army, where he was a human intelligence (HUMINT) collector who graduated from the Defense Language Institute, for Arabic.

Tell us more about your role in tZERO Group, Inc.

As the CISO at tZERO Group, my role has many different aspects to it. Since tZERO is in Fintech and we are a leader in blockchain innovation for private markets, we are building things that haven’t existed before and this requires a lot of additional time and resources to provide adequate security around it. Additionally, this is a heavily regulated space, so ensuring compliance with FINRA, SEC and other financial regulator mandates is paramount.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

I think the most difficult but rewarding part is keeping up with the speed of innovation. There are constantly new ways to build and launch applications, and this requires infosec to stay up to date and in step with these innovations.
I enjoy reading up on new tech, and going through thought exercises on what they mean from a security perspective. The introduction of kubernetes clusters for example requires security practitioners to re-think how they were going to secure these workloads.

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

There are times I wasn’t happy with my job or role in life but all these moments have led up to where I am today. I started off working in the intelligence community, and although that was exciting and I felt like I was making meaningful contributions to society, I wasn’t built for the political side that it becomes at the top. So transitioning to cybersecurity after 10+ years in intelligence collection wasn’t easy but the skills I honed in my previous line of work have definitely continues to propel me forward in my career.

What’s your key strategy for the development of your company?

I really like to develop metrics that help me have the right data to make key decisions. It’s not always possible, but with the right data I feel I can always navigate the development process much cleaner. When it comes to metrics, I have to specify leading indicators being the key. Lagging indicators are only good to show that you didn’t not reach your goals, so by focusing on leading indicators you have a better idea of the chances for success in reaching a goal.

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

I see the business world becoming much more spread out, instead of highly dense metropolitan cities. With this, we will have much more digital communication, more collaboration tools, more remote centric solutions that will affect cybersecurity postures. I also see rapid innovation around areas like web3 where we will have a much more interactive online experience with simpler on-ramps to move money around.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business

I’d say blockchain is a key technology right now obviously. On top of that I’d say private cloud infrastructure is becoming more and more important. It’s important to have highly available applications that can run 24/7 and handle network disruptions and other business continuity issues.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Right now I’m reading “Russian Information Warfare: Assault on the Democracies in the Cyber Wild West” by Dr Bilyana Lilly.

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