By Alexander Gates, Chief Research Officer

After 40 years in the U.S. military and the government in every role from Airman to Senior Advisor for Cyberspace, I’ve witnessed dramatic evolutions in technology and cybersecurity capabilities, and how the brightest minds in the nation defend the digital and physical systems and networks society relies upon. 

I’ve spent my career understanding and outpacing evolving digital threats that seek to undermine U.S. critical infrastructure. From my earliest days as a signals intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force, I became immersed in the realm of digital risks facing the country. I progressed into the world of digital threats at the National Security Agency (NSA). Having gained hands-on expertise with the digital threat landscape, my mission became developing systems to allow for better digital defense. I prioritized threat intelligence and information sharing, for example with NSA’s Threat Operations Center, where we worked closely with DHS to create streams of real-time network awareness and threat characterization capabilities. Leading NSA’s Blue, Red, Hunt, and Technical Security teams is another representative example of bringing cutting edge talent and tradecraft  to the evolving threat landscape.

Creating cultures of innovation and information sharing throughout government agencies to tackle the rapidly-evolving cyber threat is an effort that takes collaboration. To that end, it became my mission to spark change at a higher level. I spent the next phase of my career walking the halls of the White House, representing the Department of Energy (DOE) and NSA to governing bodies. I educated policymakers about the digital risks to critical infrastructure, and how to better enable government agencies and private companies to fortify their defenses. When I met Josh Lospinoso and Mike Weigand, Shift5’s co-founders, I was immediately impressed by the magnitude of the problem they’d set out to solve, and the significant progress they’d made thus far. The Shift5 mission to defend planes, trains, and weapon systems comes at a time of increasing cyber-physical threats against adversaries.

The operational technology infrastructure that transportation fleets and weapon systems are built upon are dated. The most witting adversaries can find ways into these systems to cause society-wide impact. Millions of people use transportation for work and personal purposes, and today’s complex weapon systems are technological feats. It’s in the best interest of national security to harden these systems at their weakest points, and that’s where Shift5 enters. There are many reasons I chose to join Shift5, but I’d like to share the most significant:

Shift5 is solving a hard problem. Shift5’s technology is incredibly complex. It must be in order to accomplish the task of securing OT in planes, trains, and weapon systems. The value of the problem this team is solving is unquestionable – both to the cybersecurity industry and to society at large. The level of technical expertise I’ve seen at Shift5 is among the best in the world, and I have every confidence that the company will improve the cybersecurity of planes, tanks and trains. 

The Shift5 team.  Throughout my career, I’ve surrounded myself with strong,  agile, and diverse  people and teams who are uniquely suited to the task they’re aiming to achieve. The leadership team at Shift5 contains some of the most talented people from Silicon Valley and the U.S. government who have synthesized their skills and experience in a highly impactful way. The standard of excellence I’ve seen among the leadership team extends across the entire Shift5 team.