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BlackBerry CIO on Mobile Security, BYOD and the Modern CIO Role

Al Sacco | Oct. 11, 2012
Research In Motion (RIM) CIO Robin Bienfait is not your typical CIO.

So no iPhones or Android devices for RIM employees?

I want the full security solution. Being head of security for the business, I understand where the vulnerabilities are within the other platforms. It's just not a risk I'm willing to take yet.

Do you use a personal device that's not a BlackBerry? Have you ever used a non-BlackBerry smartphone or tablet?

No. When I was at AT&T, I tested several other devices. The one that would actually function, the one that would work in areas of difficulty [during emergencies] was a BlackBerry. When I was doing all the recovery after Hurricane Katrina, the only device that would get a signal was a BlackBerry. 9/11, the only device that would get a signal and actually handle the processing I needed, was a BlackBerry.

That was because cellular networks were overloaded, and your communications were going directly through RIM's infrastructure, correct?

Yes. And even though we were boosting the network up, still the signal that was really traveling through was via BlackBerry. We've actually seen the same thing [recently] in Haiti and with the earthquakes overseas, in Japan. Same phenomenon.

Moving on to the modern CIO role, can you talk a bit about the major IT trends you think all CIOs should be watching right now?

The biggest thing is making sure your IT team really understands what is running the business. Really understanding the business versus just making sure machines are up and running. Being more of a business partner. Some IT folks have a lot of great ideas and innovations and thoughts about how to improve the business workflow. Getting them engaged at the business level can [benefit the entire business.]

How can CIOs do this?

You have to really understand how to change your business processes. You really have to have somebody who understands your business processes. I find that it's the IT department, who sees all those things come together, that can help with that. Sometimes they're not engaged to reinvent the business.

As a CIO, what keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?

Cybersecurity. And I keep marching up the bar to make sure that we manage cybersecurity. [I worry about] the guys who are coming after you all the time. (Laughs) With hackers you want to make sure that they're not in your business, that they don't have access to your customers, that you're doing things to improve your products to make sure that you aren't vulnerable and that you keep your eye on the ball.

What are the most significant challenges facing modern CIOs? Also cybersecurity?

I think so. A lot of it is that CIOs are not aware of what they've lost. I've sat in rooms with a lot of CIOs, and there are few that will actually admit they've had a breach and they're struggling with how to handle it. Not a lot of people will communicate that they've had a security breach. So there's not really open sharing in that space. I wish there would be, some kind of forum where you can come in and say, "Hey, we're seeing this kind of an event, and we need to do something about it."


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