Last week’s massive RSA conference in San Francisco plumbed many of today’s hot-button, cybersecurity issues, from encryption to malware to security threats posed by the newfangled “Internet of Things”. A roomful of executives active in the cybersecurity arena heard a related, but slightly different take on some of these topics last Tuesday at dinner hosted by Battery Ventures.
At the event, Jeremy Bash—who served as chief of staff to Leon Panetta when Panetta served as both CIA director and Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration—provided an insightful view from Washington on how the government is trying to leverage new cybersecurity technologies today, and the tensions that can arise between government agencies and Silicon Valley technology companies.
One issue for companies trying to sell technology to the government is the extremely long federal budget cycle, he pointed out: Federal agencies are already planning their fiscal 2018 budgets right now, but those line items won’t even be approved until late 2017, assuming Congress okays them.
Bash, now a managing director at strategic-advisory firm Beacon Global Strategies, also discussed the possible cybersecurity fallout from the 2016 presidential election and talked about his role in the CIA operation that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden. The hunt for bin Laden actually reveals several basic management lessons, he noted, some of which are outlined in Panetta’s recently published book, “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace.”
Among the lessons, Bash noted, are to designate clear leadership on important projects. When Panetta first got to the CIA, for example, no one person was actually in charge of the bin Laden operation. Another is to think outside the box, he said. The conventional wisdom when Panetta got to the CIA in 2009 was that bin Laden “was probably hiding in a cave somewhere, possibly hooked up to dialysis,” Bash said. “Instead, we found out he was living in a villa in Abbottabad, Pakistan hooked up to cable TV.”
In addition, Bash shared his view on the current tussle between Apple and the FBI over the San Bernadino iPhone. Bash’s take: There are some important privacy issues at play, but Apple may have picked a difficult case on which to challenge the government. “The phone is owned by the city of San Bernadino,” and the government wants it opened up, Bash noted. He said there are some compelling security reasons to decrypt the phone, and that arguments have long been made that many technologies—such as the code the FBI is asking Apple to write–could be used in the wrong way.
Representatives from Battery portfolio companies Agari*, Guardicore*, JASK*, RiskIQ* and Vera* attended the dinner, as well as executives from companies including Disney, Cisco, General Motors, Gilead Sciences, SpaceX, Symantec, US Bank and many others.
Below are a few photos from the event.
*For a full list of all Battery investments and exits, please click here.