RSA 2019: 10 Execs On The Cybersecurity Leader They Look Up To Most

Guiding The Way

Today's cybersecurity leaders haven't climbed to the top of the corporate ladder alone. They've relied on others for help when they were first entering the industry to broaden their perspective and expertise as a seasoned executive.

Some executives named former supervisors and co-workers as their most admired figure in the cybersecurity industry, while others opted for someone they've observed purely from the outside. The ability to combine business and technical acumen or have experience with non-traditional applications of cybersecurity knowledge were some of the most praised qualities in these leaders.

From longtime CEOs to retired intelligence officials to large enterprise CISOs, here's a look at the cybersecurity leaders CEOs, sales experts, and technical gurus attending RSA 2019 look up to most.

Mo Rosen, Digital Guardian President And CEO

Okta CEO Todd McKinnon made an accelerated bet on moving identity and authentication to the cloud, and Rosen said he respects what McKinnon has accomplished. McKinnon went all-in on having a cloud-based identity and has done a fantastic job with the go-to-market, Rosen said, making Okta's products easy to adopt and delivering a quick time-to-value.

Organizations are rarely budgeting the money for two-year enterprise rollouts nowadays, Rosen said, meaning a business plan that reduces operating costs and supports the move to cloud has the real possibility of being successful.

Okta has established a broad set of industry partnerships from a supported application point of view, Rosen said. The company's go-to-market strategy has taken the onus of getting value off buyers in a big way, Rosen said, and ensures that no surprising costs will hit customers and partners along the way.

Phil Quade, Fortinet Chief Information Security Officer

Former National Intelligence and NSA Director Mike McConnell has helped the United States and the cybersecurity industry mature by merging together a good understanding of foreign threats with what's needed on the commercial side to take on that foreign threat and engineer to an appropriate level, Quade said.

Officials with an intelligence background like McConnell are able to inject their perspective from dealing with bad actors on a routine basis into the commercial side of a business, according to Quade.

McConnell's multi-dimensional thanks to his nearly 15 years working at Booz Allen Hamilton, understand both the foreign threat as well as the realities of business, Quade said. He understands that organizations need to optimize around security, shareholder value and customer experience to drive business, according to Quade.

Peter Bauer, Mimecast Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO

Home Depot CISO Stephen Ward balances the relationship of the business and security organization and takes a very pragmatic approach to security innovation, Bauer said. He recognizes that the security organization can only solve a certain portion of the risk on its own, and believes the business must be willing to either tolerate risk or sponsor a reduction of risk in certain areas, according to Bauer.

As a Mimecast board member, Bauer said Ward has affected product strategy and been a great mentor to the company's own cybersecurity team. Ward helped Mimecast see that security is an organizational issue rather than just the security team's problem, and supported the move into user awareness training and employee risk score management through the acquisition of Ataata.

Ward has been an advocate at the board level for security investment, Bauer said, and is really able to effectively and credibly advocate alongside management for big investments into the company's program.

Brett Hansen, Dell VP & GM Of Client Software And Security Solutions

Longtime SecureWorks Chief Technology Officer John Ramsey has consistently been a visionary in understanding where threats are going and delivering solutions that make sense and can be practically applied, Hansen said.

Ramsey stays very close to the actual action since SecureWorks sees billions of incidents each day, and is therefore consistently able to be part of the conversation around emerging attack vectors and zero-day threats, according to Hansen. Ramsey's also good at taking a step back and looking at how to remediate in a manner that keeps the customer protected and content, he said.

Ramsey is constantly searching for what's next and where things are going, and is always hungry to learn more from industry peers or the attackers themselves, Hansen said. Despite many years of experience and expertise, Hansen said Ramsey remains one of the humblest people he knows.

Stu Solomon, Recorded Future Chief Strategy And Developer Officer

Former FireEye and McAfee leader Dave DeWalt knows the cybersecurity space inherently and is the perfect combination of banker, board member, CEO and investor, Solomon said. DeWalt excels at taking a global view rather than a U.S.-centric view thanks to his relationship with Israeli cybersecurity incubator Team8, and is able to bridge the gap across the ocean, according to Solomon.

In addition to having a really cool view of the world, Solomon said DeWalt is the consummate sales professional, and understands the technology well enough to challenge it. He excels at taking established market segments like network security or identity and finding areas where they can still be innovation through heavy engagement with companies like ForeScout or ForgeRock, Solomon said.

Peter Evans, Optiv Chief Marketing Officer

Former CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus brings a fascinating perspective on military intelligence and how to attack complex problems in the cybersecurity industry to the table, Evans said.

Petraeus understands that nation-state threats are changing how businesses engage with the world around them, and believes in examining socio-political and macroeconomic trends to better understand what's happening with cyberterrorism, Evans said. He is always trying to learn more about complex threats, Evans said, and believes in gathering as much data and intelligence as you can.

Petraeus excels at balancing risk, reward, degree of threat, and techniques employed to develop a comprehensive, integrated plan of attack and defense, Evans said. Instead of focusing on individual point products, Evans said Petraeus is good at stitching different components together into an overall risk strategy.

Marcin Kleczynski, Malwarebytes CEO

Cylance CEO Stuart McClure and CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz aggressively disrupted the industry, taking their companies from nothing to hundreds of millions of dollars of sales in just three-to-five years by letting customers know just how inadequate the traditional endpoint security vendors are, Kleczynski said.

McClure and Kurtz laid much of the groundwork around endpoint detection and response (EDR) and the effective use of artificial intelligence, Kleczynski said. And great product and marketing teams at both companies appealed to the frustration customers were feeling, he said.

In some ways, Kleczynski said McClure and Kurtz made Malwarebytes' job easier by making customers aware that the traditional endpoint vendors simply weren't cutting it as far as protection is concerned.

Scott Whitehouse, CyberArk Vice President Of Channels And Alliances

FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia is a tech visionary whose expertise runs across business, technology and security, Whitehouse said. Mandia helped build and run the original processes that Mandiant used to detect threats, Whitehouse said, and the team he developed at Mandiant has in subsequent years been influential across the entire industry.

Mandia excels at providing proscriptive advice around what businesses need to do for prevention, and is good at explaining things in plain English to CISOs and others in a public setting, Whitehouse said. He has done innovate things from a channel perspective as well, Whitehouse said, and helped reinvigorate FireEye's partner program after taking over as CEO in June 2016.

John Delk, Micro Focus CMO & GM, Security and Information Management & Governance Product Groups

Fortalice President and CEO and former White House CIO Theresa Payton has excelled at putting security into practical terms and a more pragmatic framework for boards and C-suite executives, Delk said. She has done particularly well at getting enterprises to better understand the severity of the threat landscape and take practical steps to reduce their exposure, according to Delk.

Payton sets the bar in terms of translating the geek side of cybersecurity into things that are better understood at the board level like risk, Delk said. She brings both a strong base of technical knowledge as well as good business sense and acumen to the table, Delk said, making it easier for her to get enterprises up to speed on the fundamentals.

Sam Curry, Cybereason Chief Security Officer

Former longtime RSA CEO Art Coviello brought a strong finance background into security and over time became a technologist, Curry said. The mastery Coviello demonstrated around both the security and finance portion of the business was amazing, he said.

Curry was very young when he started running products at RSA under Coviello, and said Coviello served as a wonderful coach to help him better understand the P&L side of the operation. Curry said Coviello provided him with a greater respect for self-awareness, and had all of his leaders go through personality training for that purpose.

Coviello recognized that trust was the biggest issue facing any senior management team, Curry said, and believed that if you can build trust, you can solve anything.