Trends, ClearSkyeIGA, Industry

Safety Detectives Discusses Identity & Cybersecurity with John Milburn

October 29, 2020

Aviva Zacks of Safety Detectives sat for an interview with John Milburn, CEO of Clear Skye, and asked him about his company’s platform.

Safety Detectives: What got you interested in cybersecurity?

John Milburn: I was working for a large bank in the run-up to Y2K. That was a time of very explosive growth in cybersecurity. This was the first time that IT organizations across all verticals were forced to admit that their businesses were dependent on systems that were vulnerable. No longer were we talking about security in the abstract; instead, the industry came together with a shared goal of ensuring business continuity in the face of a real problem. It was during this period that markets such as firewalls, SEIM, and Identity Management began to come into their own and the innovation happening in these new disciplines caught my attention and never let go.

SD: Tell me about Clear Skye’s platform.

JM: Before I answer that, I would like to first speak about the journey the cybersecurity space has taken over the past 20 years. The IT landscape keeps changing, meaning the attack surfaces keep changing and like any good industry, every new security problem will be met with a new security product. Over time these products get bigger and often become platforms. The result is, while technically we have the tools to make us more secure, there are so many products, platforms, and silos that effectively and securely driving your business forward is incredibly challenging. The Clear Skye team believes that it doesn’t have to be this way. Organizations don’t necessarily need more silos or platforms to be secure, and thus our solution leverages a platform our customers already have, ServiceNow. Specifically, we believe the Now Platform provides a better way to solve the Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) problem. Our approach removes much of the headwinds commonly found in IGA programs, such as:
  • A disconnected user experience – IGA programs depend on non-IT users to interact with the system, requesting or approving application access. If an organization is using ServiceNow, knowledge workers are already using its Service Portal to facilitate similar requests and approval workflows. A standalone IGA solution will require users to learn a new URL, new interfaces, and new workflows which often slows down the engagement and value realization of a well-intentioned program. Clear Skye IGA is native to the Now Platform, meaning that we leverage the same portals, interfaces, and workflow that an organization is already running their business on – resulting in much better speed and effectiveness.
  • Poor integration with other key processes – Identity Governance is a practice that needs to interact with other key IT Security processes such as ITSM, GRC, Incident Management, and HR Management. Historically organizations spend a significant amount of time building integrations between these large solutions, with results that are typically brittle and falling short of the original vision of cross-process interaction. As these workloads are more and more frequently moving into the Now Platform, it only makes sense to add Identity Management to the mix as well. Clear Skye IGA does not merely integrate with these other solutions, they are platform siblings, allowing for the complete sharing of data and security workflows that can easily cross the walls created by former silos of security.
  • The need for expensive specialty resources trained on your specific solution – Part of the IGA product selection process today must include the availability of trained resources, specifically trained on both Identity and Product X, available to get the project going. I have seen the scarcity of skilled hands slow down many IGA programs. As Clear Skye IGA is a native Now application, organizations can leverage the much larger pool of ServiceNow resources to drive and manage their IGA program.

SD: What types of companies use your technology?

JM: Managing who has what access across company applications is something that all organizations should be doing as basic security hygiene, though we see the highest demand in regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, energy, and government. The Clear Skye target customer also has invested in ServiceNow as an application platform. Many start their journey trying to solve a discrete problem such as ITSM and CMDB, but evolve over time leveraging the platform to drive digital transformation, better enabling the business to adapt to market changes (like the one we are going through now) by quickly automating workflows across departments and silos. Our customers have a vision of the Now Platform becoming the single point of interaction between the knowledge workers and IT. The more IT security workloads that can be managed on this platform the more they will help the CISO have fewer things to integrate and audit, and the knowledge workers spend less time learning new security tools as opposed to driving the organization’s mission. Extending this vision to include Identity Governance both improves their current program and better enables their overall strategic vision.

SD: What is the worst cyberthreat out there?

JM: The scariest cyberthreat is how much we still depend on people to keep us secure. We have spent so much time developing very powerful tools for specific threats, including a recent focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, and yet it is commonly acknowledged that there is an increasing shortage of security professionals to leverage these solutions. Something doesn’t add up there. I would argue that by focusing so much on building bigger and more powerful solutions for very specific security threats, we have made the CISO’s problem more challenging, not less. There is so much effort spent in integrating processes, that we are running out of skilled hands. Training and education are important to solving these problems, but I think it is just as important to take a long look at the security siloes we have allowed to get bigger and bigger over the last two decades. I don’t think our dependence on more security personnel will decline until we start breaking down some of these walls. We still need ITSM, IGA, and GRC capabilities, for example, but it is debatable whether the value of these solutions continuing to grow as bigger and bigger castles outweighs the management and efficacy problems these separate solutions create. With more alignment, I believe an organization can do more with less skilled people.

SD: How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed cybersecurity forever?

JM: The changes brought about by work from home and increased digital customer interactions will affect the cyber community forever. There will be lots of ongoing impacts but the one I think is most interesting is the increased role of the knowledge worker in cybersecurity. With most employees working remotely, far from their IT security teams, it has become more important than ever that everyone in an organization is security-minded in their daily operations. Much has been written already about this, and most people are focused on the need to increase end-user security skills training. While I do think that is needed, I think this misses the bigger issue. Trained users are great but that doesn’t help much if the daily processes and workflows that they use to do their jobs do not have security embedded in them. It will no longer be acceptable to create a security program that assumes end users will change their business processes to align with security goals. We need to focus on operationalizing security in ways that align with the very business flows that knowledge workers use every day. Where end-users are concerned, effective security protection will require aligning to their daily workflow, not the other way around.

Aviva Zacks
Cybersecurity Expert and Writer

About the Author
Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.

This interview appeared on the Safety Detectives website and is republished on with permission from the publisher.

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