Louisville Gas and Electric / Kentucky Utilities
Founder and Director
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The CIO of Louisville Gas and Electric/Kentucky Utilities, Eric Slavinsky, discusses security threats and fueling innovation efforts in the workplace.
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LF: We're here today with Eric Slavinsky, who is the Chief Information Officer at LG&E and KU Energy. It's an organization based here in Louisville with over 3,800 employees. Eric, thanks for being on the podcast today.
ES: Well, thanks. Thanks for inviting me and it's my pleasure to be here with you today.
LF: So, I know there's a big emphasis in, in your industry on security. There's so much in the news these days about companies being hacked and, and critical data being stolen. How worried should, should we all really be?
ES: Well, I think we've heard enough in the news to see that several companies have been, have been hacked and personal and private data has been exposed, and it's definitely something we need to worry about today. Uh, in our industry, uh, part of our industry is regulated by the federal government. Anything having to do with the bulk electric system is regulated and we have certain security rules and regulations that we need to follow. Those are continually reviewed and they are continually made more stringent.
LF: How might this affect the way that businesses need to respond to security threats?
ES: Well, you need to definitely have a response team and that response team needs to be practiced. You need to continually go through tabletop exercises so when a real event does happen, you're positioned well to quickly react to those events. Um, we've also changed the way some of our employees work. We've asked them to be in using dual-factor authentication and other tools that also mitigate our security risks.
LF: What about our personal devices? Do we need to be concerned about those too?
ES: We definitely do. I will tell you that during our security training, we try to include people's personal devices into it, because we feel that the way a person acts at home is the way they're going to act at work, and employees are our single biggest link to protecting our environment. Um, it, it makes sense. Definitely keep your, uh, your PC and your other personal device – which I consider my real personal device today as my phone – definitely upgraded and patched very frequently.
LF: So, should all companies harden their devices?
ES: I believe they should. We've gone to a hardening solution where we've restricted use of any USB devices on our PCs. Um, we've also taken the approach on our mobile devices, where we've installed some software that blocks off all company data from personal application, so we've reduced the risk in both areas doing that as well.
LF: What would you recommend to a company that has no security or governance plan? Where do you start?
ES: You need to start by assessing your risk. And I think every company has a different risk profile. Um, so what I would do is look at what applications you have, what types of data you have, and where you think your biggest exposure is. And then I would start to look at a way to remediate those most risky applications – applications that have personal information, that have credit card information, things that put your company at the most risk. Um, you then need to get your business integrated because security is not an IT problem, It is a company problem. And to get all your employees, as well as all your business leadership engaged is critical to the success of building IT security and governance.
LF: So, in your opinion, what is the most exciting disruptive technology that is beginning to impact our work lives?
ES: Uh, you know, it's cloud computing. Uh, I'll kind of combine that with, uh, just say the internet and cloud computing, more cloud on the, on the business side, and obviously the internet has changed all our lives. We depend on it every day. Um, it's, it's, um, it allows you to be very agile and, and really impact the business by moving very quickly without having to implement a whole bunch of technology. You can use that technology that's out on the cloud. Um, as far as personal, it's, it's impacted our everyday lives, the way we live. We use it every single day, and when the internet goes down at home, it's almost more important than having the TV go down. So, it's, uh, it's, it's definitely embedded into our lifestyles.
LF: You're so right. How are you using technology for positive change or disruption in your organization?
ES: Well, I, you know, I've asked my team to, um, to look at their jobs and to actually look at ways to work themselves out of their everyday jobs. We are in a very disruptive field today. Um, so we're either going to be disrupted or the disruptor. So, I've challenged my team to get ahead of the disruption that's taking place in our industry and go out there and look for the tools and technology that allows our business to stay ahead of the rest of our competitors. And by using that as, uh, as leverage, uh, the team is very excited about having the opportunity to, uh, to, to look at new things to do and to really become more of a part of the business and just not view that as a technology partner.
LF: And how do you fuel innovation efforts on your team and organizationally?
ES: Yeah, we've done a really good job of laying out a vision, and, and really kind of explaining our part of that vision. Um, as our CEO likes to say, we're not IT and the business, we are the business. So, having us really joined at the hip with our business partners and knowing where the company is going through our business planning process has allowed our team to get excited and go out there and see how we can solve our business problems using technology. I look at us as part of the business, not a technology department, but a department that helps the business use technology solutions to solve their problems.
LF: Awesome. Thanks, Eric, for your time today. This is Les Fultz, and I'm with Eric Slavinsky, Chief Information Officer at LG&E and KU Energy. To learn more about us, visit comspark.tech. Goodbye, until next time.
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