10 Things You Didn’t Know about Robert M. Lee

Robert M. Lee is a cybersecurity expert. To a lot of people, he should be best-known for being the CEO of Dragos, which is an industrial cybersecurity company that has managed to raise a lot of funding from interested parties.

1. Started Out in the U.S. Air Force

Lee started out in the U.S. Air Force. However, he wasn’t involved in the stereotypical activities associated with said service. Instead, Lee was a Cyber Warfare Operations Officer, which makes sense considering the nature of his career.

2. Tasked to the National Security Agency

Speaking of which, Lee was tasked to the National Security Agency, which is focused on collecting data, monitoring data, and processing data for intelligence purposes on a worldwide basis. It started out as a unit meant to crack coded communications during World War II. However, it has since seen considerable expansion, so much so that it is now one of the best-funded intelligence organizations that can be found in the United States. Regardless, the National Security Agency stands out because it is focused on signals intelligence.

3. Focused on Threats to Industrial Infrastructure

In that role, Lee was involved in various tasks. However, it is interesting to note that he was focused on threats to industrial infrastructure at one point in time. Said topic has seen a fair amount of mention in recent times. This makes sense because the failure of a single piece of critical infrastructure can send horrible consequences rippling throughout society, meaning that it is sensible for countries to prepare for such attacks.

4. Investigated 2015 Ukraine Power Grid Hack

As such, Lee was involved in the investigation of the cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid in December of 2015. For those who are curious, hackers managed to compromise the systems of three energy distribution companies, with the result that they were able to produce power outages for approximately 230,000 individuals. It is believed that they were working for a Russian cybermilitary unit, which would make sense because of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the time. Regardless, the incident was notable for being the first cyberattack on a power grid that is known to have been successful. However, there are those who have argued that it was a special case because of three factors. One was the extremely dilapidated infrastructure in Ukraine; another was the high level of corruption in Ukraine; and the third was the historical ties between Russia and Ukraine that created more opportunities for Russian infiltration than what would have been possible under other circumstances.

5. Investigated 2016 Ukraine Power Grid Hack

On a related note, Lee was also involved in the investigation of the cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid in December of 2016. That time, the cyberattack cut power for a fifth of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev for an hour’s time. It was carried out using malware called Industroyer, which might be better-known as Crashoverride in certain contexts because that was the name that Dragos used for it.

6. Investigated Triton

Later, Lee was involved in investigating Triton as well, which is sometimes called Trisis instead. This malware was used to take over the safety instrumented systems at a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2017. However, it was never used because a flaw in its code caused the plant to shutdown not once but twice. The first time, people thought the shutdown was caused by a mechanical issue; the second time, people called in investigators for a more thorough check that revealed the existence of the malware. It remains unclear who was responsible for the malware. Initial thoughts focused on Iran. Since then, there have been fingers pointed at Russia as well.

7. Runs a Company with a Robust Research Unit

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lee runs a company with a very robust research unit. After all, the field of cybersecurity has often been envisioned as an arms race, meaning that those who stay still will be rendered obsolete by those that continued to move forward. Progress doesn’t happen without researchers conducting research, meaning that if anything, it would be strange for a cybersecurity company to not have a research unit.

8. Runs a Company that Offers a Threat Detection Platform

Of course, businesses are still businesses. As such, Dragos couldn’t exist without some way to convert that research into something that people will pay for. In its case, it offers a threat detection platform for companies with industrial control systems that could encounter threats similar to those that have been mentioned in earlier points. This says a lot about the kind of trust that is put in Dragos. Those systems are used for critical infrastructure as well as other important systems, meaning that there are a lot of things riding on them continuing to perform as intended.

9. His Plan Got Disrupted By Brexit

Brexit disrupted a lot of things. As it turns out, Lee’s company was one of them. In short, Dragos is situated outside of Washington, D.C. However, the international scale of its operations means that it has been opening offices in other places in other countries. One of those offices is in the United Kingdom, which was meant to serve as a center for operations situated in not just that country but also the European Union. Something that is relatively common for U.S.-based companies operating in that part of the world. Unfortunately for Dragos, Brexit meant that the office in the United Kingdom could no longer serve as a hub for the whole of the European Union, thus necessitating a change of plans.

10. Co-Creator of a Webcomic

Amusingly, Lee is the co-creator of a webcomic called Little Bobby, which is focused on tech as well as cybersecurity matters. On the whole, webcomics aren’t exactly a new thing. In fact, their existence predates the popularization of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. Still, there can be no doubt about the fact that the ubiquitous nature of the Internet in modern times has made webcomics more commonplace than ever before, with the result that they have become something that can cross over into the mainstream.

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