How the CISO of Xerox is Improving Security

Alissa Johnson knows full well that when it comes to securing a diverse, distributed enterprise like Xerox, there is no one single technology that is sufficient.

Johnson is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Xerox, a post she has held since October 2016. She is also well know in the cybersecurity industry for her role as the Deputy Chief Information Officer in the White House, which she held from 2012 until 2015. In a video interview with eWEEK, Johnson outlines her approach to security at Xerox as well as the intersection between threats faced by the U.S. Government and those faced by commercial enterprises.

"In order for us to be prepared for the future, we have to be proactive, we have to make sure that our products and security controls are integrated into our customer's network," Johnson said. "And we have to make sure that we're proactive within our network, we're hunting, we're defending and we're protecting."

Xerox has customers across multiple industry verticals and its' technology needs to fit in diverse environments meeting a variety of different regulatory and compliance concerns. Johnson added that she looks at Xerox's own network in a similar way, trying to make sure that different components of a full security stack can work together, to provide the required amount of risk mitigation.

"I don't need something that can do all (cybersecurity) things, cause I don't believe there is one thing that can do all things," she said. 

In cybersecurity there is a concept known as "secure-by-default" that looks to provide technology that has intelligent, safe and secure default configuration. Johnson said that secure-by-default on its own is not enough, since any given system needs to be able to integrate with other systems in a customer environment.

"We are competing with other things that are happening in a network that we can't control," she said.

To help create a more secure deployment, Johnson said she takes a secure reference architecture view. With that approach, there are multiple components that help to define a reference model for how a multi-vendor, multi-technology approach can be used to provide security.

Best Practices

Even the best technology needs to be augmented with training, which is why Johnson runs different exercises at Xerox to help train employees.

Among the things she does is a phishing exercise to help train employees not to click on phishing emails. In her view, it's important to also gamify the training so employees learn and develop the muscle memory to make the right cyber-security decisions.


While Xerox is a very different organization than the White House, when it comes to cyber-threats, Johnson said she's seeing a lot of the same stuff.

"What I found is that the methods and tools that are being used to break into the White House networks are the same methods and tools that are being used to break into Xerox," she said. "The Dark Web is not creating a specific tool for Fortune 500 or for government, they are building tools for firewalls and specific technologies."

Watch the full video interview with Alissa Johnson above.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.