A case for cyber securing our industry

This month John Denslinger argues for an ‘operational alliance’ within which electronics companies collaborate to cyber-secure the industry

John Denslinger is a former executive VP Murata, president SyChip Wireless, and president/CEO ECIA, the industry’s trade association. His career spans 40 years in electronics

Is the electronic component supply chain secure from cyber threats? That question came to mind as I read a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review. The author, Daniel Dobrygowski, head of governance & policy for the World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity, is obviously a person with deep understanding of the digitally connected world. His article proceeds to highlight the hi-tech industry forming its own cybersecurity alliances and pacts. My immediate reaction: why isn’t our government taking the lead? It would seem the consequences of cyber-attacks are of national interest. Our personal safety and critical infrastructure are at risk. So are institutional, financial and legal systems. Each is a ready target for bad actors. The reality is most western governments are still more focused on developing offensive capabilities than building responsive counter cyber measures to protect us and our businesses.

Let’s face it, the future digital network will only increase in complexity and entice increasingly destructive cyber-attacks. Anyone familiar with our industry understands me completely when I say our companies tend to be fiercely competitive and keenly individualistic. That being the case, is it really possible to form meaningful alliances to tackle cybersecurity issues? If so, what kind of alliance makes the most sense?

To answer that question, let’s draw from Mr Dobrygowski’s experience and discuss two possibilities that might be appropriate for our industry:

Operational alliances—a small-group structure focused on intelligence and related technical data sharing. Information is exchanged freely to raise collective awareness of cybersecurity issues and speed adoption of counter security technologies.

Normative alliances—a structure of very large-platform companies targeting solutions to cybersecurity vulnerabilities with the intent of creating a more secure, global digital environment for customers, institutions as well as nations.

To be clear, the global digital network transformed our industry and made us more productive. B2B, B2C and C2B eCommerce transactions take place 24/7/365. Uploads/downloads between business and customer systems is commonplace and the frequency continues to accelerate. Business is global. Speed is critical. Privacy is paramount. So too is reliability of transferred data sets. In the digital network, we are vulnerable. The next cyber target making headline news might be one of our own! If that happens, you know customers will demand counter-measures from every company and their supply chains.

With so much at stake, our industry should strongly consider banding together for the greater good. Protection from government cyber efforts can’t be counted on. The industry must safeguard itself. IT solutions of one company may quickly recognize cyber threats, hacks and breaches. Another company may have developed state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools. Another may be capable of tracking digital footprints and identifying threat sources. And still another, the speed and resources to prevent cyber intrusions before any damage is done. What if we could share what we know and armed the industry with the best cyber safeguards? I think customers would value the concept greatly as it better protects them and their supply chain more comprehensively.

In my view, the Operational Alliance appears to be a good fit for our industry. ECIA might be the perfect forum to host such an alliance. It’s about time we collaborate and cyber-secure our industry.