Mike Hurt, vice president of Federal at Palo Alto Networks, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview detailing his growth strategy for the company as well as driving its winning culture and delivering next-level solutions for its clients.
In addition, Hurt also discussed the challenges of end-point security for federal agencies, cyber threats against our IT platforms and the difficulties of implementing zero-trust architecture in today’s federal landscape among the significant digital transformation efforts.
“Palo Alto Networks has continued to evolve to offer best-in-class solutions. My main growth focus is to bring awareness to the three areas for our customers — show them how our portfolio really works together and how they can take advantage of what we have to offer.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Mike Hurt below:
ExecutiveBiz: Since joining Palo Alto Networks back in March, what has been your growth strategy as a forward-thinking company to drive company culture and changes to develop the next-level solutions for your customers?
Mike Hurt: “It’s been a great nine to ten months. I’ve learned a tremendous amount since this has been a bit of a new area for me, coming from larger companies — Dell and Microsoft. I was attracted to Palo Alto Networks largely because of the broad portfolio of solutions we bring to the table. I can honestly say that I mistakenly thought of Palo Alto as just a ‘firewall company.’
We’re very proud of our capabilities and have done an excellent job inside the federal space, establishing ourselves as the ‘best-in-class’ for network security and firewalls, but the main growth strategy that I’ve been working on since coming onboard has been articulating our full breadth of solutions.
I didn’t want to go to a company that was a one-trick pony, focused only on one specific area of cybersecurity. I wanted to work for a company that was not only specifically security-focused, but also keen to address the three main areas of cybersecurity: endpoint, network and cloud.
Palo Alto Networks has continued to evolve to offer best-in-class solutions for those three key areas. My main growth focus is to bring awareness to the three areas for our customers — show them how our portfolio really works together and how they can take advantage of what we have to offer.
The second key growth strategy for me is ensuring that our product continues to evolve for the unique requirements of the federal government. It’s so important to understand the unique requirements and where the government as a whole is heading. Our executives getting deeply involved in our business is also key and our leadership at the top really is just as invested in supporting our federal customers.
It’s been a great year of growth for us as a company and as a team. I’ve learned a lot and enjoy re-engaging with federal customers. It’s great to support and be a part of our federal government customers’ mission critical areas.
The recent Log4J vulnerability is a great example of how we are working to support our customers, ensuring they have access to our tools that can help find as many vulnerabilities as possible. For me, being able to help our customers through incidents like this is very exciting; it fires me up to get up every morning and work on this with our teams.”
ExecutiveBiz: When discussing end-point security issues for federal agencies, what is the latest on data protection and defending a network in the cybersecurity space and investing in a different approach to block threat actors from attacking platforms?
Mike Hurt: “My recommendation to the federal government is to not think about cybersecurity in silos. You need technologies that communicate across the cloud and network and have highly integrated cyber defense systems. That’s a bit of a unique value proposition that Palo Alto Networks can bring to the table because our products all work together.
Ultimately, data is the key in the security world and it’s essential to be able to collect and analyze data from the cloud to the endpoint and at the network level. It’s crucial because you can use machine learning to figure out the attack pattern and also predict where the bad actors are hiding.
Another significant element is to move at machine speed. Bad actors are moving at machine speed and we need to be one step ahead, and automation is pivotal to have a full view across an organization’s assets.
Palo Alto Networks continues to design our platform to work in collaboration with alternate network providers and leverage telemetry from numerous products to offer actionable guidance for our customers to help defend against cyber adversaries.
Our ability to work with different cybersecurity vendors is a unique value proposition for us. There will always be different security vendors out there with great solutions of their own that do one specific thing.”
ExecutiveBiz: With zero-trust technology becoming a major focal point moving forward, what can you tell us about the difficulties of implementing zero-trust architectures for federal agencies and the challenges of the process for digital transformation for the government as a whole?
Mike Hurt: “Zero trust is not brand new. It’s been around for quite some time. The main thing that I learned over the years is that you can’t buy into the marketing. There’s a lot of marketing out there saying, ‘You can have zero trust, but you need to buy this one particular product.’
That’s just not how it works. Zero trust is not a product. It’s not just one technology. Zero trust is a methodology. I’ve been around the federal government for a while and there have been a lot of concepts and trials for a long time so it’s not a big new concept for the government either.
The federal government has been doing a lot of things correctly. Security practices like multi-factor authentication and identity as well as access management and segmentation all line up rather well with zero trust.
Our thought process around zero trust revolves around what we call the ‘Crown Jewel’ approach. This means that the focus is on protecting and securing the important IT assets in your environment. You can’t boil the ocean when it comes to zero trust.
You have to be methodical in your approach to implementing zero trust. We absolutely have the solutions and products best suited to provide network visibility and segmentation, which are critical to building a solid foundation of a zero trust architecture.”