CISOs Connect recently named McIntire instructor and alumnus Christopher Porter to its inaugural list honoring the preeminent security leaders across the United States.
The knowledge-sharing membership community exclusively for chief information security officers chose Porter for his contributions as CISO with leading mortgage financing company Fannie Mae, where he has worked for nearly seven years and served in the role since 2016. The recognition commends CISOs representing various industries for their leadership and for sharing their expertise to help protect organizations across the world.
Porter says that there are many cumulative reasons for being named to the list of Top 100 CISOs—beginning with his “professional, collaborative, and innovative” colleagues at Fannie Mae.
“I don’t think you can win awards like this unless you have a great team behind you,” he says. “Another reason is around continuous learning, as well as giving back to the community of CISOs,” Porter says, noting the importance of mentoring, educating, and sharing knowledge to develop talent in the cybersecurity industry.
He also credits his strong connection to the venture capital community. “I’m always looking to learn about innovative, emerging technology that can help enable businesses and reduce cybersecurity risk.”
Outwitting Bad Guys and Bugs
Of the many challenges that come with his position, Porter says that two stand out.
He references a speech about the asymmetry of cybersecurity given a few years ago by Dan Geer, whom he calls “one of the wisest men in cybersecurity.” Because of the dynamic nature of the cyber landscape, Porter believes that every day offers the potential for creating a new wrinkle that’s capable of changing how his company’s security program is managed.
“Defenders need to protect against all attacks ever identified, all current attacks, as well as all future attacks that are yet unknown. And the bad guys need to be only right once,” he says.
The second major challenge he routinely faces concerns the deep knowledge necessary for properly managing the operational complexities of technology systems within an organization. Questions around prioritizing and sequencing cybersecurity work, as well as skilled approaches to fixing issues in IT systems without breaking them, “require a lot of collaboration with the technology partners in an organization, and it’s a lot harder than people think!”
Paying Dividends and Paying It Forward
As a McIntire M.S. in MIT alumnus, Porter is adamant about the positive impact the graduate program had on his professional life, ultimately informing his responsibilities with Fannie Mae.
“The program was one of the best investments I’ve made in my career,” he says, explaining how understanding technology was relatively easy for him, having been raised around computers and having a natural knack for working with them.
But up to that point when he was in the Commerce School, he admits to having never taken a class in business or strategy. The M.S. in MIT Program changed all that.
“It was really eye opening for me. The program’s curriculum gave me a much different perspective on how to think about technology and cybersecurity, and how to incorporate and embed what we do regarding the company’s strategy and objectives,” he says. “Cybersecurity also needs to help enable the business to create value.”
Fittingly, the Top 100 CISO winner recognized for his leadership and giving back to his industry returned to McIntire as an instructor of the Cyber Risk module of the School’s 12-week Cybersecurity for Business Leaders Certificate program; it’s another avenue for him to pass along the knowledge he’s amassed throughout his successful career in the field.
“I get to leverage my experience as CISO about how to view cyber risk as another type of business risk—and how to assess it either qualitatively or quantitatively to make better decisions.”
But what Porter enjoys most about being an instructor is being part of the University community.
“I have a deep love for the University, and when the opportunity arose to be part of the learning community, I jumped at it. My fellow instructors are great to work with, and it’s nice being part of that team.”