Cisco's John Stewart on the latest security threats … and what enterprises can do to fight back

Freelance writer Susan Perschke recently sat down with Cisco Vice President and Chief Security Officer John N. Stewart for an in-depth discussion of the state of enterprise security.

Stewart leads Cisco's security operations, product security, and government security functions. He is also responsible for overseeing security for, the infrastructure supporting Cisco's $40-plus billion business, WebEx, the collaboration service providing 73 million online meetings per year, among other Cisco functions. Stewart holds a Master of Science degree in computer and information science with honors from Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

In this wide-ranging discussion, Stewart describes the most troubling threats facing enterprises today, and talks about how companies can protect themselves by deploying what he calls "composite security." He delivers specific advice and gets into areas like mobility, identity management, and the need for companies to begin planning for IPv6.

With network security threats continuing to evolve, what are Cisco customers reporting as their top security challenge?

To give you a little bit of history, I've been in the computer security industry for almost 25 years, and the responsibilities I hold are the traditional corporate information security functions. I also co-chair the products security board and am involved in a significant portion of the way we do government work around the globe, with implementation for military intelligence and public sector customers. So I end up having three views of the security challenges we face. My observations and what we hear most from customers, at least circa 2012, is that their challenges breaking down essentially into a "triad of triads," with one of those aspects most often causing them the most significant fits.

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