Leadership Spotlight Q&A

by | April 30, 2024

All Things Cyber with Lauren Zabierek!

Lauren Zabierek is a Senior Advisor in the Cybersecurity Division of Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), with over 20 years in national security.

Q: What are the top three cyber challenges you as the Senior Cybersecurity Advisor and your team are working on and why?

A: My team and I are working on what we believe is the top cyber challenge facing our nation; that of insecure software. In fact, we like to say on our team that we don’t have a cybersecurity problem, we have a software quality problem. What I mean by that is software manufacturers largely haven’t prioritized security in their products because they haven’t had to, because there is seemingly no economic incentive or legal reason to do so. And the result is that attackers exploit easily found and well-known defects, costing our nation billions according to the FBIs Internet Crime Report, putting our critical functions and people at unacceptable levels of risk. As our Director Jen Easterly noted in her recent Congressional testimony, CISA found and eradicated critical infrastructure threats across multiple sectors, including aviation, energy, water, and telecommunications. We believe that security is a function of quality, and that manufacturers should differentiate themselves on those aspects to raise the costs to attackers and by doing so, raise the collective level of security and safety. Our team is driving this monumental, whole-of-society effort that we call Secure by Design, Secure by Design | CISA which is aligned with the National Cybersecurity Strategy, CISA Cybersecurity Strategic Plan | CISANational Cybersecurity Strategy for a more secure and safe future where technology manufacturers drive the development of secure products. The vision is to shift the security burden from the end users to the technology manufacturers.

Q: Your career has been expansive and very impressive, including intel analysis with the DoD and working with Recorded Future. Now you’re with CISA. Tell us about that progression, and why you are where you are now?

 A:  Thank you for that—I’d like to say that it was incredibly strategic, but the truth is twofold; first, even when things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, I was pushed in a direction that I needed to go in, and things turned out even better than I could have ever imagined. Second, even if I didn’t have a solid plan, I was always guided by the things that mattered the most to me such as serving, security, making a change for good, family, and these days, well-being. Let me add that even in the most challenging moments it’s important to keep one’s sights set on the things that matter the most in order to stay grounded and grateful. I think it’s important to sit in those challenging moments because through discomfort comes growth and wisdom. I am incredibly grateful for every role I have had and for the people I’ve worked with and befriended along the way. I am humbled by the opportunities that have come with each role. I know that nobody gets anywhere on their own. I am at CISA now where I am a senior advisor within our Cybersecurity Division, and I am so thrilled to be here working with some of my heroes on hard problems facing our nation.

Q: What was the biggest influencer in developing your career in IT and cybersecurity?

A: I came to the cybersecurity field because I had to leave my previous government role as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the DoD and move to Boston with my family. I have had tremendous support from my husband during my multiple deployments and 24/7 shift work, and so when an opportunity came up for him in Boston, I knew it was my turn to support him. But that wasn’t easy, I had to leave friends and my work in Washington, DC, including my on-going education in progress. I moved to Boston and joined a cybersecurity startup, the Recorded Future — shout out to my first boss there and the CEO for taking a chance on me! It was there that I learned very quickly about these new threats facing our nation and had the sense we could do more to protect the country. Being accepted to the Harvard Kennedy School is what drove me to this next chapter.

Lauren Zabierek is a Senior Advisor in the Cybersecurity Division at CISA with over 20 years in national security. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Cyber Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, where she ran a policy-relevant research program and managed students and nonresident fellows. She also served as the Acting Executive Director of the Belfer Center in her final semester there. She came to that role as a 2019 graduate of the Kennedy School’s mid-career MPA program. Prior to graduate school, she was an early member of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, having established and managed their public sector team. She also served as a civilian intelligence analyst at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and served as a US Air Force intelligence officer at the beginning of her career. Lauren is also the co-founder of the online social media movement, #ShareTheMicInCyber. She is a mentor with Girl Security, a fellow at the National Security Institute at George Mason University, and a fellow at New America. She has appeared on television, radio, and several podcasts and panels.

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