NSA’s Dukes will give ‘international flavor’ to nonprofit CIS

NSA Information Assurance Director Curtis Dukes speaks at the 2016 Security Through Innovation Summit, sponsored by Intel Security and produced by FedScoop. (FedScoop)

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Curtis Dukes, the former head of information assurance at the NSA, says he will work to extend the reach of the nonprofit Center for Internet Security beyond U.S. borders now that he’s taken a post there after retiring following nearly four decades of government service.

Dukes, who is taking charge of the center’s work on the iconic CIS Critical Security Controls, told CyberScoop in an interview that he hoped to impart “more of an international flavor” to CIS’s work promoting the controls, which are a set of 20 prioritized cybersecurity measures any company can use to cut its vulnerability to online attacks.

“There are some easy things everyone can do,” he explained.

“We’ll do consensus-building internationally on what security controls might be appropriate” in different countries’ circumstances, he said, adding he would be “leveraging relationships that I’ve built over more than 30 years [at the NSA] … Not just with Five Eyes [the U.S. alliance with Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand], but in the EU and Asia as well.”

As CIS executive vice-president in charge of the Security Best Practices Automation Group — which maintains the CIS Critical Security Controls — Dukes said his goal was to get the 20 controls “fully mainstreamed and totally integrated” into commercial security practices.

Dukes, who said he was “humbled” by the chance to work at CIS, told CyberScoop that nothing in particular had prompted his decision to leave, but rather he had come to feel last year that “It was time to make a change … to try something different.”

“After I put my resume out, I had several offers,” he explained. adding that the one from CIS “best fit my passions.”

Dukes has been at NSA for 32 years, and adding his prior military service has served the U.S. for 39 years and seven months. “I went there to learn the technology,” he said of theNSA “and stayed there for the mission.”

He said one of the things he was enjoying about his retirement was the chance to to use technology around the clock.

For 3o-plus years at NSA, he said, “I went to work every morning and I left behind my mobile device and my social media,” the use of which is banned in the highly classified NSA facilities where Dukes labored.

“I actually find it very liberating to be connected 24 hours a day,” he said.

Dukes said he had not reached out to the incoming Donald Trump administration but would be open to an offer from it. “I’d like to think that I still have something to offer my country,” Dukes said, adding “But right now I just excited about my new role at CIS.”