Headline, Technology

Will Mulchandani risk reorienting CIA’s tech integration as new threats emerge?

India being a strategic ally, Mulchandani may play a key role to stem cyber attacks at home and on friends abroad

By Kiran N. Kumar

Picked as the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) first-ever Chief Technology Officer, India-born Nand Mulchandani faces the daunting task of networking global operations under one roof, putting his 25 years of expertise in Silicon Valley to the litmus test.

Announcing his appointment last Friday, the CIA stated, “With more than 25 years of experience, Mr Mulchandani will ensure the Agency is leveraging cutting-edge innovations to further CIA’s mission.”

As the first-ever CTO at CIA headquarters, Mulchandani’s first task would be to prioritize technology-driven strategy to make the agency relevant and reinvent, especially to counter the belligerent challenge posed to the West from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read: Indian American Nand Mulchandani is CIA’s first ever CTO (May 2, 2022)

Now that an imminent Cold War is waiting in the wings, the new CTO requires broadening surveillance with industry and partners roped in effectively.

Mulchandani with his stints ranging from startups Oblix (acquired by Oracle), Determina (acquired by VMWare), OpenDNS (acquired by Cisco), and ScaleXtreme (acquired by Citrix) — will have to bridge the gap and foray into a comprehensive cyber security regime now.

Mulchandani, during his earlier stint at the Pentagon as acting director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), revamped the AI projects and workflows, adopting a different organizational structure.

He also made JAIC the only organization in the Pentagon to have product managers and an AI product development approach reminiscent of Silicon Valley startups with enterprise sales teams.

His new appointment at CIA points at a similar turnaround in streamlining multiple intelligence inputs and yet bringing in the urgency seen in startups to provide quick solutions at a time when recurrent cyber security breaches glare at the US and its allies alike.

Multi-discipline strategy
A Multi-discipline strategy unveiled since the 9/11 jolt to CIA and FBI alike, has already brought forth integration of intelligence inputs from different agencies to analyze risks to CIA people, facilities, information, and operations, besides providing guidance to protect intelligence programs and methods.

Currently, CIA’s cyber security perspective requires identifying immediate threats, mitigating vulnerabilities, and anticipating future cybersecurity challenges, protecting CIA data, systems and managing IT risk.

Its cyber security officers gather intelligence from adversary systems and networks using advanced tools, techniques, and tradecraft.

Read: Who is Nand Mulchandani, the Indian-origin man named CIA’s first tech officer? (May 02, 2022)

All these operations require focus on the design, development, integration, and deployment of cutting-edge tools, techniques, and systems to support cyber operations, where the 25 years of expertise would prove crucial.

With all these risk factors and operational requirements weaved in, Mulchandani is expected to steer the path ahead for the spy agency to face any possible New Cold War threats from the Russian and Chinese theatre.

India being a strategic ally in this context, Mulchandani may have to play a self-driven role to bring in new manpower, reorient and shuffle around the agency’s priorities to reach out to the outside tech world in the journey to stem the cyber attacks on government institutions, embassies and on friendly governments outside the US.

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