Panzura CISO: ‘Data is the most critical asset companies have’

16 Dec 2022

Katie McCullough. Image: Panzura

Chief information security officer Katie McCullough talks about how IT and sustainability go hand in hand and why everything comes back to data.

Katie McCullough is the newly appointed chief information security officer at multi-cloud data management company Panzura. She has more than 25 years of experience executing and leading security operations, compliance, managed services and cloud solutions.

Previously, McCullough held a number of senior IT positions at various companies, most recently at US tech business OneNeck IT Solutions. In her current role, she is responsible for security and compliance for Panzura and its customers.

“Part of my role as Panzura’s CISO is to make security as frictionless as possible. As well as rolling out new security features, it’s my mission to change the conversation about security, making security improvements something companies welcome rather than dread,” she told

‘We need to be intentional in our use of compute power’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

Data is the most critical asset companies have. They now face the twin challenges of ensuring both the privacy and easy availability of their data.

Attacks have widened significantly over the last few years, both with the growth of remote working and with the adoption of cloud services.

While cloud services are very secure, they represent a shift in accountability to a model of shared responsibility. That means that companies need to be sure of their role in managing and configuring the environment, but also to understand the full threat landscape, because what we know for certain is that bad actors will continue to try to steal the data.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

It all comes back to the data. At the end of the day, our customers want to better leverage their data because they either want to monetise it or to use it to inform business decisions.

Digital transformation is about enabling businesses to use the data that they already have meaningfully. This strategic approach to data transformation is at the heart of the data services Panzura provides.

Ultimately what businesses want from digital transformation is to have the right data where and when they want it for their particular business needs.

How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?

IT can help to drive long-lasting sustainability improvements. We should all be more conscious of how we’re utilising – and disposing of – the resources in our control. There are three immediate changes organisations can implement starting today.

The first is remote working. As we’ve seen in recent years, the IT department has a pivotal role to play in enabling remote working and its sustainability benefits extend beyond simply reducing the power consumption in offices. Workers who aren’t commuting to a centralised office are also reducing the carbon footprint in transportation terms too, for instance.

The second major sustainability driver revolves around how IT departments dispose of equipment. There are increasingly eco-friendly options now available, which means more equipment is recycled or reused.

Lastly, we need to be intentional in our use of compute power. Hyperscale computing providers obviously have a large carbon footprint, but in reality, cloud services are helping companies minimise the total compute power they use because they can scale up or down as needed.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

The area that businesses find most challenging is securing their data. It’s the most valuable asset a company has and it’s at risk, so data protection and data recovery capabilities need to be top of mind for every business.

It’s why Panzura is pioneering a more proactive, intelligent approach to keeping data safe that works better for businesses. We leverage cutting-edge data management techniques that employ AI and machine learning to protect data from the biggest cyber challenges out there right now.

I’m lucky enough to be privy to some very exciting advances in these areas. These innovations are taking place partly as a reaction to the rapidly changing threat landscape and partly in recognition of the fact that companies need to approach data protection differently.

Thanks to ongoing technological advances in their respective areas, data privacy, availability and recovery are all aspects of data management that businesses can improve significantly through careful planning and implementation.

How can we address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

There are two major security focus areas that spring to mind. One is security hygiene. It may not sound sexy, but getting the basics right is a critical form of defence against cyberattacks.

It should be security 101 and companies know they ought to be doing it, yet jobs like patching or access and account management visibility often drop down the list.

The second biggest way to improve security is to adopt the zero-trust model of identity and access management. Companies need to make data available so that business runs smoothly. That’s imperative.

But at the same time, they need to balance that availability with careful access controls based on a detailed understanding of who within the organisation needs access to which data and services.

The historic approach to guarding the perimeter just doesn’t work in this day and age. Instead, we need to recognise that ransomware and other attacks will happen, but that with the right access controls in place, their damage is minimised.

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