Cyber Expert Says Business Needs to Protect Internal Operations

Ronald Burgess Jr. is a retired Army three-star general who has taken his cyber intelligence and defense expertise to the academic world and private sector. On Thursday Burgess spoke to the Auburn University Montgomery breakfast series about the need for a national debate about cyber security not only to protect the United States but also to guard internally valuable assets of businesses.

The regularly scheduled AUM Breakfast Series that is co-sponsored by the Business Council of Alabama features political, social, business, and academic speakers.

Burgess spent his career protecting the United States in various intelligence posts including as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In that capacity he participated in presidential intelligence briefings.

Burgess retired in 2012 and became Auburn University’s Senior Counsel for National Security Programs, Cyber Programs and Military Affairs.

He said what is important for security of any military system relying on connected computers is vitally important to the business world.

Businesses if not already engaged must secure their outside connections starting with computer Internet Protocols, he said. He advocated assigning one employee the responsibility for cyber security and cyber security training for employees.

“You’ve got to be concerned about your information,” he said. “Protect systems to protect data.”

Burgess said that between $250 billion and $1 trillion in intellectual property walks out the back door of U.S. companies and research and development businesses into the arms of nations that are intent on harm and are after industrial and R&D secrets.

Since the nation’s Gross Domestic Product is about $15.6 trillion, “that’s one-fifteenth going out the door,” he said. Burgess estimated that 50 percent of China’s military might was built from stolen or acquired U.S. technology and processes.

“That does make it a national security issue for us as a nation,” Burgess said. “We are not making it very hard on them.”

Incredibly, there are international groups that believe file and secret sharing are good things.

“It’s a problem for us as a nation starting at the top going down,” Burgess said.

Burgess also said cyber security jobs will grow in importance in the next five years. “We need maybe 100,000 cyber warriors not only in the military but also business,” he said.

When announcing Burgess’s appointment, Auburn University said it sought ways to strengthen and expand its partnership with the U.S. military, focus research efforts on finding solutions to demanding security challenges, and develop programs and training to assist veterans as they transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

-Dana Beyerle