At the Frontline: ASIS President Richard Widup

Widup discusses his goals for the upcoming year, trends impacting security professionals


The other thing, in concert with that, is to be more inclusive and communicative amongst the volunteer leadership element. We are a large organization and we have 59 years of storied tradition and a lot of great things have come out of that, but we’re big and I want to make sure that we do as much as we can to share information, ideas and concepts across all of the volunteer leadership entities. I think by increasing communication, we’re going to improve our ability to innovate when it comes to member needs and their desires and I think that’s important. In combination with that, what’s additionally important is that we continue to identify other organizations that share an interest in what ASIS does as an organization and an interest in what some of our members do. We need to reach out to them and try to establish a relationship or a partnership where we can exchange ideas and, again, communicate and innovate to try to keep pace with this very fast-paced, changing world.

We’ve got a couple of great initiatives that are going to come out this year. I’m really pushing for involvement at all levels with women in security, young professionals forums, and promoting the efforts of the foundation. Our ASIS International Foundation last year raised $231,000 in scholarship and grant monies that benefitted 131 members and I think that’s just phenomenal.  

SIW: What do you see as the biggest challenge currently facing security practitioners?

Widup: I don’t think there’s one big challenge at all. There’s no silver bullet to resolve any issue and I don’t think there’s any one issue of great concern, but I think some of the biggest that loom for a lot us is trying to match the resources that are commensurate with the risks we face everyday – whether it be people, skill sets, and funds or budget situations. I think trying to match those is extremely challenging. I think the advanced pace of the cybersecurity challenges, the skill levels and developing a culture that protects intellectual property is equally as challenging. And I think one of the big, overarching challenges we face as security professionals, because of just the dynamic nature of what goes on every day, is trying to be better leaders and managers of our people, mentoring them and managing that inbox that changes every single day.

SIW: How difficult is it to balance the traditional physical security risks with what seems to be an unending wave of cyber threats?

Widup: I don’t know if it’s as difficult and people think it is. Certainly, the cyber risks themselves are challenging and they will always continue to evolve. I think that balancing those risks is only difficult if you’re not communicating and aligned with the other resources that you work with everyday. So, certainly on the practitioner side, that means being an enterprise security risk manager and being involved in supporting all of the business units. If you have that capability where you can perform in that capacity, then we should part of cross-functional teams that share resources and ideas to meet and mitigate those challenges.

SIW: Given your background in the pharmaceutical industry, how would characterize how security risks have evolved in that sector? How big of an issue has counterfeit pharmaceuticals become in your estimation?

Widup: It’s a big deal. I’m particularly passionate about that area because I have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that counterfeit pharmaceuticals can have on people. It’s a big challenge. Thirty percent of the countries in the world don’t have what we would refer to in the United States as an effective or efficient medicine regulatory agency. And that means that there are not any laws on the books to help support and protect the intellectual property rights of a company to try and go after someone involved. The supply chain of the world is extremely complicated and trying to stay abreast of the challenges in supply chain security as it pertains to the pharmaceutical industry is particularly challenging.

If that’s not enough, just look at what’s going on with the Internet. The Internet is a huge, huge problem right now. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy recently did an evaluation of the Internet and they found out that 97 percent of the sites that advertise for the sale of pharmaceutical products are not legitimate. They’re not regulated, they don’t meet the standards that we have to face here in the U.S. and other developed countries. A lot of those Internet sites are based in foreign countries and there’s really no way to track or trace where a product comes from. You don’t know if the product is going to be what you ordered and a lot of those sites are not secured, so information regarding your personal identity, credit card information, not to mention your medical status, is not protected.