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Executive Spotlight: GovCon Expert Bill Downer, VP of National Programs for Seagate Government Solutions

Executive Spotlight: GovCon Expert Bill Downer, VP of National Programs for Seagate Government Solutions - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Bill Downer, vice president of National Programs for Seagate Government Solutions and a key member of Executive Mosaic’s GovCon Expert program, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding how the U.S. rebuilds and strengthens its manufacturing sector and the significant role that robotics, AI and other emerging technologies will have in that process moving forward.

In addition, GovCon Expert Bill Downer also discussed the greater challenges that federal agencies are facing in supply chain management as well as the latest capabilities for Seagate Secure and how the company has continued to drive data protection and storage for its customers during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.

“Seagate is spending a lot of time and money to drive innovation for securing the data at rest. All manner of storage devices are being manufactured for things like gaming systems, phones, computers, and weapon systems to be more secure. Seagate is creating a number of different layers for data and storage device protection because important financial and personal data reside on these devices and systems.”

You can read the full Executive Spotlight with GovCon Expert Bill Downer below:

ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the latest capabilities for Seagate Secure and how the company has continued to drive data protection and storage for your customers to protect their information from the latest malware, ransomware, and other threats since we last spoke?

Bill Downer: “Recently, the current administration released an executive order regarding cybersecurity, which included previsions about moving to data-centric data security, which is significant. It will take some time for the government to develop and adopt the new standards, but both the previous administrations have acknowledged that protecting the data is equally as important as protecting our networks. The new executive order requires agencies to adopt strategies to protect the data as well.

Many of the networks have already been compromised, especially on the civilian side. We need to focus first on securing the data and operate with the assumption that the bad guys are in every network already and the data must be protected from these actors. The question becomes, “How to manage ourselves and address that threat?”

The significance of the recent executive order is it makes it all about securing the data, not just securing the networks themselves. The bad actors are after the data, not the network. We have seen with a number of financial institutions that the bad guys would much rather encrypt the data with their own keys and hold it hostage than just break into the system.

Seagate is spending a lot of time and money to drive innovation for securing the data at rest. All manner of storage devices are being manufactured for things like gaming systems, phones, computers, and weapon systems to be more secure. Seagate is creating a number of different layers for data and storage device protection because important financial and personal data reside on these devices and systems.

I have been involved personally with commerce and the Chips Act in the sense that I provided feedback to the US Department of Commerce concerning the importance of manufacturing storage devices in the US should be a part of the Act.

My point to the member of the US Department of Commerce seeking industry feedback was that data at rest on a storage device is a large attack surface, which should illustrate how critical it is to protect the data and the devices where the data resides.

Seagate has also been spending a lot of time researching and building with our partners’ solutions that protect against the threats like malware and ransomware. Too often, behavioral analytics are operated by artificial intelligence and machine learning tools because speed is the name of the game, right?

As we have worked with our partners in behavioral analytics and our storage systems, we have reviewed and evaluated the two-step authentication process.

We have evaluated what zero-trust is for data at rest. Let us assume all these wonderful tools are already adopted, and we have successfully mitigated outside threats. What about the inside threats?

It is key that we understand that not always malicious actors cause systems to be compromised. How do we manage and use our behavioral analytics to detect threats from the inside before they happen from well-meaning personnel that has been spoofed or otherwise compromised? All the bases need to be covered to protect the data.”

ExecutiveBiz: With Seagate becoming one of the first firms to receive the ISO 20243 supply chain certification for the full lifecycle of a product, how has that helped the company work to address some of the greatest challenges that federal agencies are facing in supply chain management?

Bill Downer: “We discussed the activity around data at rest. There is a lot of conversation concerning supply chain security as well, but another area is what we are doing to rebound and rebuild manufacturing. I was at a recent Potomac Officers Club event talking about a secure supply chain.

With the ISO 20243 supply chain certification, there is a lot of activity within the Pentagon and DoD around checking the heritage of equipment and devices. It is no mystery that a lot of manufacturing has moved overseas.

As a result, we always need to check the heritage of the equipment all through the supply chain. There are numerous examples where there is a small box or switch that is only made by one manufacturer in China. That could apply to any supply chain or case. There are a lot of examples of this being the case with a range of our weapons systems.

The Pentagon is diving more into its IT equipment and weapons systems, but it is hard to investigate all the integrators and manufacturers, and a lot of the integrators are manufacturers as well. It requires a great deal of investigation to certify all of this with the International Standards Organization method. Seagate is ahead of this curve. It is part of our company’s DNA.

For us at Seagate, it is all about verifying the origin of the devices and checking for malware and grey market materials. One of the things that Seagate developed was the capabilities to do both device and firmware attestation by the server vendor.

A lot of the OEMs were not aware that Seagate had those capabilities. In a recent CRADA with NIST, Seagate was able to test these capabilities with some of the leading OEMs. I recommend you review the NIST CRADA on Validating the Integrity of Computing Devices, Supply Chain Assurance.”

ExecutiveBiz: How can the U.S. rebuild and strengthen its manufacturing sector and what role will robotics, AI and other emerging technologies have in that process to address the skills gap in the current manufacturing workforce?

Bill Downer: “Regarding rebuilding our manufacturing industry, there is a big move and a lot of funding moving towards chip manufacturing. Commerce, Congress, and the White House all need to work together to strengthen US manufacturing and build the workforce for manufacturing that is sorely needed.

We can put a range of capabilities in place to protect ourselves from manufacturing that is done in undesirable places, but the long game is developing and expanding sophisticated manufacturing in the US.

The challenge is that we need to figure out how to use robotics and AI to enhance the manufacturing of both simple items and the most complex things to compete with the countries that are doing labor-intensive manufacturing with lower-cost labor.

During the recent Executive Mosaic event that I mentioned earlier, Jesse Salazar, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy with DoD challenged all the integrators and manufacturers in the room to join in the quest to rebuild manufacturing in the US and to engage with trade schools to create the workforce we need.

This is a challenge everyone should accept.”

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Written by William McCormick

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