Ned Baltagi

SANS Institute was established as early as 1989, during the nascent stages of information security globally. As a leading voice in the field, what in your view are the main concerns and challenges it faces?

The information security sector has seen drastic evolution since the late 80s when SANS Institute was first established. The threat landscape today is significantly more complex and sophisticated, featuring state-sponsored cyberattacks, advanced persistent threats, and cyber-terrorism.

Firstly, we're seeing an incredibly rapid evolution of cyber threats. Cybercriminals are becoming more innovative, using cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to create and distribute malware, leading to more advanced threats such as polymorphic and metamorphic malware that can change its code as it spreads. We are also witnessing the rise of zero-day threats – threats that exploit unknown vulnerabilities for which there are no existing defenses.

Secondly, cyber attackers are increasingly sophisticated. They are often well-funded, highly skilled, and organised, with some even sponsored by nation-states. These actors deploy advanced persistent threats (APTs) - long-term targeted attacks that patiently infiltrate systems and remain undetected for extended periods. They can silently exfiltrate sensitive data, causing significant damage before they are detected.

The explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) has also created new challenges. These devices significantly expand the attack surface as each connected device provides a potential entry point for attackers. Many IoT devices are not designed with security in mind and have known vulnerabilities that make them easy targets. As IoT continues to grow, so too does the complexity of managing and securing these devices.

Further compounding these issues is the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals. As the cyber threat landscape grows more complex, there is a need for individuals with advanced technical skills to counter these threats.

All these challenges underline the importance of robust, adaptive, and proactive cybersecurity strategies. These must be underpinned by a comprehensive understanding of the threat landscape and the technical capabilities to respond effectively and quickly to evolving threats.

How are you empowering business professionals through your Cyber Security Roadmap programme?

Our Cyber Security Skills Roadmap is designed to equip professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape. The key areas of training we focus on include incident handling and response, penetration testing, network defense, cyber threat intelligence, industrial control systems security, management, leadership, and audit. These skills are vital for every cybersecurity professional, regardless of their level or the sector they work in. Additionally, we provide specialized training tracks for different roles within the cybersecurity field.

The challenges for CEOs and business leads in the tech sector are unique in a world where change is the new currency. How are your leadership initiatives enabling future tech leads?

Leadership programmes at SANS are designed to help tech leaders understand and navigate the unique challenges they face in today's fast-changing tech landscape. Apart from comprehensive courses that cover a range of topics, from creating and managing effective cybersecurity strategies, to understanding and implementing regulatory requirements, and handling security incidents, we have also introduced the Executive Cybersecurity Exercises (ECE).

The ECE is an immersive program that simulates a cyberattack and guides senior leaders through the crisis response process. During the exercise, leaders will face simulated crisis scenarios that challenge them to make quick decisions and manage the fallout of a cyberattack. The exercise tests their ability to stay composed under pressure, maintain clear communication within the organisation and with external stakeholders, and successfully navigate the complex dynamics of a cyber crisis.

We believe it is crucial for every leader in an organisation to be equipped to respond to a cyberattack swiftly and effectively. The increasing prevalence of ransomware attacks makes it imperative for all executives, board members, and organisational leaders to be prepared for a potential cyberattack. The insights gained from the exercise can be used to refine existing plans and develop stronger, more robust strategies to mitigate cyber risks.

Cyber awareness is a catchphrase that’s gaining popularity. How is SANS Institute raising awaremess?

Cybersecurity awareness is indeed crucial in today's digital landscape. At SANS, we understand that the human factor is often the weakest link in the security chain. That's why we have developed a comprehensive Security Awareness Training programme, which aims to foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness in organisations, teaching employees about various cyber threats, safe online habits, and what to do in case of a security incident.