RSAC Fireside Chat: Madison Horn’s quest to add cyber expertise, restore ethics to Congress

By Byron V. Acohido

At a time of devolving politics, Madison Horn stands out as a breath of fresh air.

Related: The Biden-Harris National Cybsecurity Strategy

I had the chance to sit down with Horn at RSAC 2024 to learn all about her measured decision to put an ascendent cybersecurity career on hold to run for political office.

I came away very impressed by Horn’s determination to inject technical expertise and ethical reform into an arena starkly bereft of both: the U.S. Congress. For a full drill down, please give the accompanying podcast a listen.

Horn’s background is as compelling as it is unorthodox. A seventh generation Oklahoman and a proud member of the Cherokee Nation, she grew up in a rural community with few socio-economic advantages. Her professional career began by happenstance at a small cyber firm that specialized in assessing critical infrastructure vulnerabilities.

She quickly progressed to significant roles at Fusion X, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Siemens Energy, where she spearheaded global cybersecurity initiatives. “My career gave me a unique perspective on the threats facing America,” she says, everything from mitigating AI-boosted cyberattacks to strategizing cyber warfare countermeasures.

Even as her career trajectory steepened, Horn found herself repeatedly drawn back to her home state and increasingly troubled by its maladies. It was a sense of duty to serve her community, she says, that compelled her to try her hand at politics.

“Every time I came back to Oklahoma, I saw the lack of progress and the lack of opportunities,” she explains. “I felt I owed it to my community to come home and do something about it.”

Her decision was further galvanized by the political tumult following Donald Trump’s election and by the January 6th Capitol riot. “Seeing our political system deteriorate because of ego and partisanship was a call to action for me,” she says.

Horn is running against Republican incumbent Stephanie Bice, who has focused on border security and protecting the oil and gas industry. Oklahoma’s 5th District is rated solidly Republican by various analysts, but current polling has Madison and her opponent tied 46/46, with 8% undecided according to change research,  representing a path for Horn.

However, she believes her unique background in cybersecurity  and commitment to ethical governance can resonate with voters across the spectrum. “We need leaders who understand technology and can protect our digital future,” she argues.

Horn’s campaign rebukes the current political system, which she sees as being hampered by money and party politics. “All the money in politics is holding back good people from getting elected,” she contends. Her previous run for the U.S. Senate, though unsuccessful, helped her better understand the process and prepare for her current bid, she says.

Her platform hasn’t changed one iota, she told me. She hopes to contribute to resolving critical issues such as supply chain resilience, rural healthcare and infrastructure development. Horn emphasizes the importance of direct community engagement, a lesson she learned from her Senate campaign. “People are looking for authenticity and a genuine connection with their representatives,” she notes.

If Horn has an ace in the hole, it might be her high-level grasp of cybersecurity exposures, which gives her a full appreciation of the complexities that must be overcome to make the Internet as private and safe as it needs to be. If she wins this November, Madison would be the most credentialed cyber lawmaker in U.S. history.

Could Madison Horn be in the vanguard of a youthful critical thinkers motivated to restore governance by and for the people? Let’s hope so. I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.

Acohido

Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.


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