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OODAcast: Mischel Kwon, Founder and CEO of W@tchTower

In this OODAcast we interview Michel Kwon, the founder and CEO of W@tchTower. She is a leader who has proven herself through an ability to success in three different career fields, first as a developer and programmer creating enterprise grade solutions, then as a government executive who would eventually lead the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT)during a critical period in its transformation, and now as an entrepreneur and CEO adding value to enterprises seeking to reduce risk and improve cybersecurity posture.

We discuss Michel’s foundational story and extract lessons relevant to those starting a career today, and also dive into how she leveraged her technical skills and desire to create into a winning presentation of a new type of WiFi antenna at Defcon. This event would prove to be pivotal for her next career in the Department of Justice, and makes a clear point of use to any who may be seeking opportunities to switch careers (her focus on continued learning and intention to always be herself were at play here).

We also discuss her government career and lessons learned for any professional government who would like to advance and make bigger differences for the nation.  There are also lessons from Mischel’s story for any leader who needs to motivate action across organizations when you are not in command. Her approach was to provide threat briefings and visions for the future that would motivate other leaders. This may be the only way that works on cross organizational efforts like those she had to lead. She also provides eye-opening anecdotes about the importance of knowing the rules (in her case, including the Constitution and the laws in place for how we protect privacy). She shares lessons and recommendations that flow from this for any commercial cybersecurity professional as well.

As CEO of W@tchTower she has led the firm from its formation to a highly performing value adding partner for any business which is in need of a security operations center (SOC) or with a need to improve current SOC operations. Watchtower provides the technology, guidance and expertise to enable security operations and mitigate problems of too much data, disorganized processes, overworked analysts and hard to measure metrics.

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Additional Resources

OODA Research Reports:

Cyberwar Was Coming: A Reflection on the 25 Year Old Thesis that Predicted a Generation of Cyberconflict

“You’ve got to read what this kid is writing out of his basement at the University of Vermont…” – recently retired CIA officer to intelligence and military colleagues in 1994. A candid 25 year retrospective on a thesis that launched a tremendous amount of dialogue and action on the issues of information warfare, cyberterrorism, and cybersecurity. See:

Cyberwar Was Coming: A Reflection on the 25 Year Old Thesis that Predicted a Generation of Cyberconflict

Deception Needs to be an Essential Element of Your Cyber Defense Strategy

In the cyber defense community, we talk about a wide-range of risk mitigating technologies, strategies, and activities.  We talk about attacker deterrence and increasing costs for the attacker.  We invest in endpoint agents, threat intelligence, DLM, and other mitigating technologies on a daily basis. Here’s why one of the most compelling emerging use cases for increasing attacker costs is through the use of deception. For more see: Deception Needs to be an Essential Element of Your Cyber Defense Strategy

Traveling Executive’s Guide to Cybersecurity:

Traveling executives are frequent targets for cyber espionage. This report provides guidance for executives and their security teams on how to protect their information and technology while on the go. Produced by OODA co-founders Matt Devost and Bob Gourley, the report provides best practices, awareness of threats, and a deep understanding of the state of technology. A tiered threat model is provided enabling a better tailoring of actions to meet the threat. For more see:  OODA Releases a Traveling Executive’s Guide to Cybersecurity

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes OODALoop.com and CTOvision.com. Bob is the author of the book The Cyber Threat. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency.