Robert M. Lee was introduced to oil and gas during his time as a cyberweapons operations officer in the U.S. Air Force. While serving at the National Security Agency (NSA), he led a mission identifying and analyzing cyberthreats to industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT) environments. During that time, he spent a considerable amount of time finding and tracking threats that targeted oil and gas sites globally. Since founding Dragos, he has testified before Congress three times on cybersecurity matters.
Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?
“I’m most proud of growing Dragos into a successful team that safeguards industrial infrastructure around the globe. Dragos protects hundreds of industrial organizations, including seven of the 10 largest oil and gas companies in the world and nine of the 10 largest electric utilities in the U.S.
Another of my biggest professional accomplishments was launching and securing a patent for Neighborhood Keeper, a free opt-in for the Dragos Platform that allows all the insights happening inside ICS networks to be shared in real-time across the private and public sectors without revealing any sensitive data and with full anonymity of its participants.”
Which career milestone did you reach sooner than you had planned?
“Becoming CEO and Co-Founder of Dragos. I wasn’t looking to start a company but after leading the investigation into the 2015 Ukraine power grid attacks, I decided that an OT-specific technology approach was needed in the community. I founded Dragos with my two colleagues from the NSA and then it took off.”
What advice would you give other young professionals in the industry?
“Focus on things that are of interest to you. There may be more lucrative or attractive career options at any given point, but you can never go wrong with being happy. Find the things that interest and inspire you and you will be far better at those things and contribute far more.”
What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“Passion and commitment are two of them. Expertise is another. It’s crucial that leaders realize the dire consequences of cyberattacks and have the passion, dedication, and specialized knowledge—knowledge and skills specific to ICS and OT—to safeguard the critical infrastructure we rely on every day.”
Who is your mentor?
“Michael Assante was my mentor and while he was here with us, he always focused me on the mission, the importance of what we are doing. It wasn’t and never has been about fame, fortune or any other cliché—it’s always been about protecting our communities. He told me, ‘Rob, we’re not ready yet’ for the things to come, before he passed. It was a call to action for all of us and one I think about daily.”
Which transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“The oil and gas industry is going through a rapid technological transformation as well as energy source transformation. This is all underpinned by digitization. To ensure those efforts are successful it will be absolutely necessary to invest seriously in ICS/OT cybersecurity.”
- “I wrote three children’s books: ‘SCADA and Me,’ ‘Threat Intelligence and Me,’ and ‘Santa and Me.’
- “I am an introvert. No matter how many people see me on the global stage or how interactive I may come across, it is always draining. I do it because I love our community but I’m very often collapsing in the hotel room immediately after."
- “As much as I loved my time and service in the U.S. military, I hold the view that no one should be in anyone’s civilian infrastructure. There are no ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ only uninvited guests and invited. And if they’re uninvited, I don’t care who they are, I’d happily kick them out.”