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Security for the greater good

At first glance, the words ‘security’ and ‘philanthropy’ don’t automatically seem to fit together. But if you take a second to think about it, you’ll realize they are actually quite complementary. Philanthropy is about promoting the welfare of others. Especially in this day and age, with so much of our private information online, the entire concept of cybersecurity can benefit everyone – preserving the privacy and integrity of data, and in turn, the people who own it.

Without cybersecurity, today’s world would be a very different place. Cyber-attackers would have free reign to steal information, siphon money away from innocent victims, take down businesses, and topple entire governments and their critical infrastructure. Indeed, cybersecurity = safety = prosperity = welfare. In other words, security and social responsibility go hand-in-hand.

By their very nature, Cisco’s solutions help secure the lifeblood of the global economy. More than 80 percent of the world’s web traffic travels securely across Cisco connections, and our solutions help protect the data of millions of users and 100 percent of the Fortune 100. This requires us to carefully design solutions with security and privacy embedded from the start, and to be extremely vigilant in safeguarding our customers and technologies against intrusions.

Security and social responsibility

While maintaining strong security and privacy is indeed core to how we run our business, Cisco also has a long history of giving back to make the world a better place. A history that goes far beyond just our efforts to develop cutting-edge technology to solve some of society’s biggest problems. As the company that built the network, we are inherently well positioned to move the needle in improving lives around the world. Networking leads to connection, which leads to opportunity – even in the most remote and undeveloped areas. In fact, Cisco’s driving mission is to “power an inclusive future for all.”

But it’s about more than just creating powerful technology. Cisco devotes tremendous time and resources to actively getting our technology, as well as necessary funds and manpower, to the people and places that need it most. While our philanthropic efforts span far and wide, it’s interesting to look at the areas in which our security technology and expertise in particular play a role in Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. Having worked at Cisco for 20 years, I could not be prouder of the work we’ve done in the following areas.

Educating the tech leaders of tomorrow

Launched in 1997, the Cisco Networking Academy is Cisco’s largest CSR program. Through education, technical training, and career mentorship, it has benefited 12.6 million students in 180 countries by helping them build the necessary skills to succeed in the digital economy. Through Cisco Networking Academy, we partner with educators, governments, non-profits, and employers around the globe to offer equal, inclusive access to technical training for people of all backgrounds.

By providing this program for free to eligible learning partners, we are helping break down historical barriers to tech careers associated with gender, age, disability, geography, economic status, and more. Security is an important component of this program, especially within the cybersecurity curriculum. This curriculum is helping to shape the next generation of security leaders and fill the worldwide deficit of skilled cybersecurity professionals.

Providing critical communications in crisis

Another CSR program that Cisco takes great pride in is our disaster response team, known as Tactical Operations (TacOps). Cisco TacOps deploys technology and trained professionals to provide mission-critical communications and connectivity for free in the wake of natural disasters and other crises.

Just as important as providing connectivity in a crisis is securing that connectivity. Cisco Secure technologies such as Cisco Umbrella, Cisco Secure Firewall, Cisco Secure Endpoint, and Cisco Meraki are used in TacOps deployments to defend temporary networks against cyberattacks. For example, in March of this year, TacOps used our security technology to help remotely mitigate cyber threats at emergency operating centers in Northern California during the pandemic.

Enabling business continuity with free technology

The events of this year have caused widespread disruption across many areas of our lives, including business. Seemingly overnight, unprecedented numbers of employees were asked to work remotely; and overwhelmed IT and security teams were required to rapidly adapt their architecture to meet unexpected needs. Dramatic, unplanned shifts like this can introduce new risks to performance, connectivity, and security.

Cisco stepped in to support our customers and others struggling with this challenge by offering free technology to help ease the transition. In addition to empowering companies with Cisco Webex, we provided extended free licenses and expanded usage counts at no extra charge for several key security technologies that are designed to protect remote workers – including Cisco Umbrella, Cisco Secure Access by Duo, Cisco Secure Endpoint, and Cisco AnyConnect.

Helping non-profits solve global challenges

Alongside directly helping those in need and creating opportunities for people to thrive in the digital economy, we also support many non-profits in their efforts to do the same. In the security realm, one non-profit project we support is picoCTF. An initiative of the CyLab Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, picoCTF is a free, online computer hacking game that allows both beginners and experts to hone their cybersecurity skills.

Just last year, 40,000 people in 160 countries participated in the game. picoCTF has inspired many young people to discover an interest in cybersecurity – including a substantial number of females, who are often underrepresented in the industry.

Safeguarding the future

This year in particular has shed much light on the need for corporations and individuals alike to do more for the greater good. Once again, Cisco has stepped up, enacting many new programs and measures to help with pandemic response, social justice, climate change, and more.

Of course, there’s always additional work to be done. At the end of our fiscal year 2020, Cisco had positively impacted 527 million people around the globe through our social impact grants and signature CSR programs. Our goal is to impact 1 billion people by 2025.

“We believe so much in the power of technology that we set a goal in 2016 to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025,” said Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Cisco. “By combining technology – security technology included – with innovative, entrepreneurial, and passionate people, we are able to accelerate positive change and maximize our impact.”

We like to say at Cisco that our security technologies prepare customers for what’s now and what’s next. I believe our efforts to give back are also doing that for the world as a whole.