Interview – Rhys Macfarlane, Chief Security Officer, Luxury Escapes

Luxury Escapes Macfarlane RhysRhys Macfarlane, Chief Security Officer for Luxury Escapes is an experienced Chief Security Officer – skilled in Physical Security, Loss Prevention, Risk Management, Internal Investigations, Leadership and Network Security. Strong military and protective services professional with a Bachelor of Arts – BA focused in Security, Terrorism and Counterterrorism from Murdoch University.

In this interview with the CISO Leaders Team from Media Corp International Rhys discussed some of the biggest challenges security leaders are currently faced with and his thoughts on the future of the industry, he also shared insights into security strategy amongst other things.

Interviewer: “What do you feel are the biggest challenges Security & Information Security leaders are currently faced with?”  

Rhys: “Not to sound too doom and gloom, but I think we are in one of the most challenging times ever. The threats against us are going both higher and lower tech in their approach, for example, the success of a relatively low-tech threat like exec fraud/BEC while at the same time we have the looming threat of the high tech AI based threat actors to contend with. We are also having to rely more and more on our team members to remain vigilant against all threats while it is getting harder and harder to spot them. So I guess I would say the biggest challenge is having to cover such a wide surface area against such a vast variety of attacks.”

Interviewer: “As a leader in the security industry, what do you feel businesses can work on when it comes to their security strategy?”

Rhys: “I am more human focused when it comes to security and I believe one of the best areas a company can focus on is upskilling their workforce. Develop a strong training program, with ongoing refreshers, focus on the key vulnerabilities your company faces and make it fun and engaging. If you can do this the level of your team members cyber security skills will be greatly improved and they will become an asset in your defence instead of another potential vulnerability.”

Interviewer: “Things change so quickly in the IT industry, what does it take to stay on top of the security?”

Rhys: “I am a big believer in constant study, as the threats change so rapidly nowadays, and sharing of lessons learned between our industry leaders. I fell like the best resource we have is each other, the more we let each other know what we’ve seen in the wild the better we will be able to proactively protect ourselves.”

Interviewer: “Where do you see the industry headed within the next one to five years and what do you feel will be the biggest game changers?”

Rhys: “I see the biggest game changer being machine learning/AI, in both our defence and the threat actor’s attack methods. I see the industry bringing in more and more automated programs to monitor some of the more baseline aspects of our jobs. This will be a very welcome development as it will allow us to focus more on long term strategy and some of the more complex threats; and will also assist with the IT security staffing shortage that we currently have.”

Interviewer: “What would you say to someone trying to excel in an Information Security role?”

Rhys: “My advice would be they need to view themselves as a path clearer and not a roadblock. The people I have seen truly excel in this industry understand that they are part of a business and that this business needs profit to stay open and freedom to grow. A good security specialist will be able to walk the tightrope of trying their very best to secure the company and protect any vulnerabilities without becoming a burden on productivity or stifling the growth of the company.”

Interviewer: “What do you feel is the hottest topic right now in the industry and what is its effect on the industry?”

Rhys: “Again, I feel that machine learning is the hot topic right now. I see the effect being positive overall for the industry. It’s been a very long time since cyber security was front page news and having new stories about the threat posed by AI and the great new machine learning defences coming out is generating a good amount of buzz and investment for our industry.”

Interviewer: “What do you feel the most passionate about within your business?”

Rhys: “I am most passionate about upskilling all of our team members. The more I can improve their cyber security practices the stronger our defences become. I also believe this has a larger long-term effect, as these team members will take the lessons learned and apply them to their personal practices online and will teach those around them. The more we can upskill the general population the harder it will be for cyber crime to continue. We must spread the message wherever we can.”

Interviewer: “What is one key takeaway you hope the audience from our CISO Leaders Summit Australia, Sydney leaves with after hearing your presentation on site?”

Rhys: “My hope is that people leave the seminar with a realistic understanding of the current threat; and a sense of optimism in our ability to meet this threat. We are operating at a threat level that is unprecedented and this threat continues to grow, change and improve on an almost daily basis. New technologies are being deployed by threat actors that are incredibly sophisticated and I believe this will continue to advance at a rapid pace, with tech such as machine learning only in its infancy. However, I also think we are at a time of opportunity. I believe that most executives are now far more engaged with security than ever before and that there is large interest in the development of new and improved IT security technologies. If we are able to capitalise on this we will be able to develop our abilities, training and technology in-order to meet these new threats, and save ourselves from falling further behind.”

About Luxury Escapes

By partnering with some of the world’s best known and loved brands in travel Luxury Escapes are changing the way you book and experience a holiday. Their global team of experts negotiate packages that are exclusive to Luxury Escapes giving you and your family better value and a better escape.

Luxury Escapes