In July we launched Security Challenge, a unique startup program in cooperation with Cisco, LVenture Group, InfoCert and NTT DATA also open to incomplete teams and individuals who want to build cybersecurity companies. If you are still on the fence about applying, keep reading this post: we spoke with Enrico Mercadante, Lead for system engineering and cloud for Southern Europe at Cisco, to better understand the importance of the cybersecurity. When did Cisco begin to consider cybersecuriy as an important element? "Since the networks were born cybersecurity has always been important, and Cisco has made the protection of network systems a distinctive priority from the beginning. In the past, the role of networks was more circumscribed, but today have become the heart of the business of all companies. In a scenario where people data, things and processes are interconnected on an exponential scale it is crucial the ability to develop responses to evolving digital threats." As Cisco's Italian innovation responsible what are the elements that drove you to use the open innovation model? "We chose this model because of our direct experience. To deal with the growing digitization we realized that we could not succeed relying solely on our own resources and potential. Being open to innovations that take place outside of our reality, establish a dialogue and learn is essential. Indeed the real innovation can not only come from internal sources. We need partnerships, customers and vendors that bring innovation from the outside. This model is a pillar of our paradigm of innovation. Another important reason why we chose to use this model is that customers themselves require it. In fact, more and more customers are open and interested in open innovation model because of speed issues - which now has to be high -skills - which sometimes are not already present within companies - and because of agility needs - because with the 'open innovation you can follow different trends and see which blend better with their business model without being left behind. According to a study that we conducted with IMD, Digital Vortex, in the next 3 - 5 years only 60% of the globally leading companies will remain so. The open innovation represents a fundamental tool in order to remain a leader in a context of digital disruption." What is the goal of your Digitaliani program? "With Digitaliani program we aim to accelerate the digitalization of the country as a whole. There are priorities that we have identified in some strategic areas and sectors for the country.  Sectors such as the food chain, the manufacturing sector and areas such as the development of digital services for the citizen. In all this, cyber security is obviously a fundamental part; not only as an element of success for any type of project  but also as a field of research and development." Until today security is considered at a physical level. But now it is permeating even digitally. How important is it to have companies that deal with cyber security and to keep people's data safe? "For any business, it is very important to establish solid corporate policies regarding cyber security. This requires resources and expertise, and for the small and medium companies can benefit to outsource certain processes; in these cases, it is essential to have the right partners. In Cisco, we allocate a significant proportion of our investments on our ecosystem of partners to educate them regarding cyber security. We are very attentive to enable them at the highest possible level. Today there is a large fragmentation of cybersecurity solutions and the consequence is that to trace a hacker attack may also be required 100 days on average. To reduce this gap and the risks involved, we are trying to simplify the activities of our customers, joining in a single platform all the cyber security solutions available. Our goal is going to offer solutions to prevent attacks, to handle an attack in progress and to analyze the post-attack. We believe that this unification is a process that will affect more and more the whole industry." Considering a scenario in which to defend against hacker attacks will be companies specializing in cyber security, how do we control these "new controllers"? Who will ensure that there will be non-partisan entity? "When digitalization is pervasive in businesses, in people's lives, in their daily work experience means that an entire country becomes digitized. The government should make cyber security a pillar to protect its citizens. In this panorama of transparency is a key element. Those involved in cyber security must continually work to protect his clients and himself from possible risks, and in parallel has to make clear how it performs this work. For example, in Cisco we launched the site whose purpose is to show in a transparent manner to customers what we are doing concretely to protect them." How can we spread the culture of cyber security more broadly? "We are working hard on this and launching of various initiatives. Since many years we have launched the initiative school of internet: we teach to kids of the final years of elementary and secondary shool how to move safely on the internet and how to make a more conscious use of digital tools. Our project aims to start transmit a conscious digital culture, as a foundation for informed and safe digitization. The next big problem is that at the moment of cyber security experts are few. We would like to reduce this gap. Here too we focus on the school, on the technical institutes in particular. We have a training program, Cisco Networking Academy, which offers professional training in the field of ICT technologies related to networks and cyber security. Our goal in the Digitaliani investment plan is to reach 100,000 students in three years with this program, which now offers training opportunities in the information security industry, but also on digital entrepreneurship issues and the Internet of Things. Finally, the last step will bring this culture within companies. Different realities are moving to spread this culture, such as CINI, a university consortium that deals with enhancing training on cyber security."  

Have you already applied for Security Challenge?

Hurry up! Application close on September 23rd!

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