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Raytheon CEO: cybersecurity must be a top priority for businesses

09/15/15 - BOSTON, MA. - Tom Kennedy, CEO of Raytheon Company, speaks at Northeastern’s CEO Breakfast Forum series on Sept. 11, 2015 in Boston. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

With Web-based threats becoming increasingly sophisticated and aggressive, top business executives must prioritize cybersecurity just as highly as the bottom line and other critical aspects of their companies, according to Thomas A. Kennedy, chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company.

“Cybersecurity is now something that we must treat in our businesses just like we watch our balance sheets,” Kennedy, the keynote speaker Tuesday morning at Northeastern University’s CEO Breakfast Forum, said to other business leaders in attendance.

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun hosts the CEO Breakfast Forum series, in which leading CEOs share their expertise with audiences of other CEOs and senior executives from the Greater Boston area.

In his remarks Kennedy noted several recent high-profile examples of cybersecurity making headlines, including Sony Pictures’ data breach and researchers showing how they can remotely hack into and take control of a Jeep Cherokee. He noted that in today’s digital world, businesses’ entire operations are tied together in the cyberdomain—an approach driven in part by consumers’ increasing demand for the value, capabilities, and convenience the digital realm provides.

The sources of Web-based risks, he said, include nation states attacking governments and businesses, cybercriminals searching for and selling individuals’ personal information, “hacktivists” with political or social agendas, and companies’ own employees deliberately or accidentally activating a vulnerability.

As a result, Kennedy said executives must be aware of what’s going on in this domain, both in terms of the company’s information technology systems but also the products and services it delivers. He specifically outlined several aspects of their companies’ information security plans executives should know about, including cybersecurity risk management processes, whether all employees have been trained on cybersecurity policies and procedures, how employees’ and customers’ personally identifiable information is protected, and what measures are in place to track and analyze a breach if one occurs.

The foundation to Raytheon’s own strategy for cybersecurity, Kennedy said, involves protecting the company’s infrastructure, products and solutions sold globally, and customers around the world.

“Our vision is to be one global team creating trusted, innovative solutions to make the world a safer place,” he said.

Raytheon Company, which was founded in 1922 and is now headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government, and cybersecurity markets throughout the world. The company has 61,000 employees worldwide and is one of Massachusetts’ largest employers.

Kennedy joined Raytheon in 1983. He started off in engineering on radar development, and over the past 32 years has developed a deep understanding of the company’s operations, technologies, and customers through a variety of leadership positions. He became CEO in March 2014 and chairman in October 2014.

In welcome remarks, Aoun hailed Kennedy as an accomplished engineer and a strong leader. Aoun shared that when he asked Kennedy how he developed his leadership skills, Kennedy pointed to his military service. Kennedy served in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of captain, and he earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He also holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Over the years Northeastern and Raytheon have developed a longstanding partnership. In addition to philanthropic support, the company has employed more than 450 co-op students since 2002 and currently employs more than 600 alumni. Northeastern’s prominent alumni at Raytheon include Trustee Emeritus Dennis J. Picard, LI’59, UC’62, H’89, the retired chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company; Corporator Richard R. Yuse, E’74, ME’76, a Raytheon vice president and president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems; and Michael Del Checcolo, E’91, vice president of engineering at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and a member of the College of Engineering’s MIE Industrial Advisory Board.

“The bottom line is our businesses need talent, and we need the best talent we can possibly get to compete in the global marketplace,” Kennedy said. “I can tell you Northeastern has never failed us in providing the talent that we need to be able win in our global market.”