CEO hot seat: Dave Hansen

Recently SafeNet announced the appointment of Dave Hansen, an information security and cloud veteran, as the company’s new President and CEO. Help Net Security put him in the hot seat to learn more about his background, as well as future plans.

How has working at CA and BMC Software prepared you for your CEO position at SafeNet?
The broad number of roles I’ve held at both companies has been invaluable and taught me the importance of cultivating a culture of success. From my experiences in the field to management to my time on the IT side as CIO, I was able to gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the requirements to successfully run a business and support the needs of customers. I also saw how important it is to foster a strong, cross-functional team to deliver on those needs and guarantee success for the company.

Second, next to the customer, the people in your organization and the industry knowledge they possess are the most important. It’s critical to develop your existing employee base, identify high performers early on, and then give them the tools they need to succeed. I worked at one organization where the CEO took an active role in nurturing internal talent. That taught me the level of influence CEOs have and our responsibility for developing talent, building strong teams and driving productivity across the business.

What are your long term goals for the company? Innovation must be high on your priority list.
Innovation is critical to any long term strategy and it is a core value at SafeNet. Having joined the SafeNet this month, my first priority is getting to know our business inside and out so we can ensure our strategy and vision for the future is on target.

I’ve been spending my time meeting with employees around the world and hearing directly from our customers. What I came away with, and the feedback that I’m hearing, is that SafeNet has amazing technology. In my view, we have one of the strongest high security product portfolios in the industry. We need to build upon that, and go deeper with our customer relationships to ensure that we are meeting their current and emerging needs and execute well against those needs.

Given the constantly evolving threat environment, innovation has to be at the center of everything we do. We have an internal process and incubator track that allows employees across functions to work unrestrained and foster the innovation required to develop products that address the next generation of threats that our customers will soon encounter.

Virtualization and cloud computing have become an integral part of every organization’s IT infrastructure. What are SafeNet’s strengths in this market? How can you improve?
Over the past year, SafeNet made a series of significant, cloud-focused moves, and that will continue under my leadership. We launched ProtectV this past summer to offer data protection in virtualized environments which, in addition to encrypting VMs, enables centralized authentication key management, and isolation of sensitive data. We also launched SafeNet Authentication Service, a pure cloud, strong authentication platform. As the Gartner-recognized leader in the authentication market, SafeNet offers an easy to use and deploy “authentication as a service” model, that until now had really only been delivered by start-ups. All of these moves are in the interest of giving organizations the same type of network control that they had with on-premise hosting environments.

As you say, cloud computing is absolutely now a critical part of how people operate. SafeNet will continue to innovate in this area, sharpen our focus on data protection for cloud and virtual environments and deliver solutions that serve as an enabler for organizations, not an obstacle, when it comes to migrating to the cloud.

What do you expect to be the most significant challenge that SafeNet will face within the next five years?
The biggest obstacle is the ever-changing threat vector profile. While the industry is cognizant of the changes, the real challenge is going being recognition and staying one step ahead of the threat profile. The computing industry is massively changing. Cloud computing is a prime example. However, organizations continue to view security as an obstacle rather than an enabler to their business and tend to rely on past security frameworks. Right now, in my view, there is a real resistance to change in terms of how people approach information security.

There is widespread acknowledgment that a perimeter only approach is a dated one, and yet organizations continue to invest in it, as opposed to adapting and focusing more resources on protecting the data itself. People are generally aware that it is not very difficult for an unauthorized user to penetrate a corporate network, but they are not yet fully grasping the idea that every network breach must not be a full-scale breach of security.

What we’re trying to do is usher in a new era, in which the focus is on enabling the “secure breach,” in which security measures are designed intelligently around the acceptance that unauthorized users may well already be inside the network. Breaches don’t have to cause the same type of damage they’ve caused in the past; not if the valuable information is protected by encryption. You simply need to know what the hackers may be after and why, and deploy your resources accordingly. SafeNet’s data protection philosophy revolves around this idea. I believe that this is the direction the industry is taking, particularly as more and more information is being migrated to the cloud. People are talking about this idea, but are only now beginning to deploy their resources accordingly.