John McClure, CISO at Sinclair Broadcast Group – a diversified media company and America’s leading provider of local sports and news – talks about the evolution of cybersecurity and the cultural shift placing it at the forefront of business change.

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A cyber transformation strategy supports Sinclair’s content which is delivered via multiple platforms, including over-the-air, multi-channel video program distributors, and digital and streaming platforms. 

Sinclair Broadcast Group is a diversified media company and a leading provider of local news and sports. The Company owns, operates and/or provides services to 185 television stations in 86 markets, owns multiple national networks including Tennis Channel and Stadium; has TV stations affiliated with all the major broadcast networks and owns and/or operates 21 regional sports network brands.

Established over 50 years ago, Sinclair Broadcast Group is among the largest media companies in the US with a multi-billion-dollar turnover driven by 11,500 employees across the States. Having just been named to the Fortune 500 it’s an exciting time for Sinclair and one which throws up new challenges. To help the company continue to expand, and meet the needs of its growing audiences, John McClure joined Sinclair in the summer of 2021 to become its first CISO.

A cybersecurity mandate

Sinclair’s new CISO was tested right out of the blocks when the company suffered a large ransomware event in October last year. “I had the first 90 days to assess where we were in terms of cyber needs and requirements, and what I wanted to put in place in future years,” recalls McClure. “And then… the attack changed everything in terms of pace, expectations and even leadership style.

I was the newest addition to the executive team, and was still in my early days of understanding how Sinclair operated. I had to quickly transition from ‘getting to know Sinclair’ to supporting our response and recovery efforts as part of our transformation. We focused on how we could get the business back online, running it in a manner that’s supportive of our business, customers, and the public.”

The space between planning and implementation became compressed for McClure and his team as the spotlight shone on cybersecurity. “We were able to work quickly with the executive leadership team to make sure staffing and funding resources were available,” he says. “The support of the executive leadership team was immediate and complete – we were able to accelerate the information security program very quickly.”

In the process, McClure’s role shifted from, salesman selling the importance of cybersecurity, to leading from the front in the response to coordinate the immediate need for investment and focused action. “We built a coalition of support to guide us through a critical stage of recovery,” he notes. “We’re well aligned with business requirements and finding strong partners and key champions across the business to help us execute.”

Meeting the transformation challenge

“The velocity and sophistication of attacks are on the rise – an attacker only has to be right once, while security defences have to be right every day.” McClure’s competitive stance was shaped by his time in the military. A part of his career journey he credits with building discipline  defining his work ethic. “It gave me a no quit attitude,” he adds. “The ability to move quickly in uncertain or difficult situations and work with a team focused on its mission has proved invaluable…”

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