By Simon Bracey Lane, PhD student, University of Canberra.

The Cyber Security Summit is delighted to announce this year’s winners of the 2021 Visionary Leadership Awards (VLA). Celebrating those on the cutting edge of the field is a vital component of the Cyber Security Summit. Each year the Summit presents awards in 9 categories, with one special award being selected for Founder’s Choice.

Otherwise known as the Morrie’s, this award is named after Robert Tappan Morris, the American computer scientist who notably created the first computer worm on the Internet. Morris later went on to make significant contributions to computer networking; co-found the funding firm Y Combinator and becoming a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although once again the pandemic has meant our celebration of these thought leaders is taking place online. It does nothing to dampen the impact their work has on moving the needle to better secure our businesses, organizations and nation.  Along with recognition for their accomplishments, award recipients are invited to a VIP skill-sharing and networking reception in Spring 2022. We are excited to celebrate all our Visionary Leadership Awardees there.


Cyber Security Summit’s Founder’s Award:

Mandiant & CEO Kevin Mandia

Kevin is the Chief Executive Officer of Mandiant and was previously the Chief Executive Officer of FireEye from June 2016 through September 2021. He was appointed to the company’s Board of Directors in February 2016. Kevin joined FireEye as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in December 2013, when FireEye acquired Mandiant, the company he founded in 2004. Before Mandiant, Kevin was the Director of Computer Forensics at Foundstone (acquired by McAfee Corporation) from 2000 to 2003, and the Director of Information Security for Sytex (later acquired by Lockheed Martin) from 1998 to 2000. Kevin also served in the United States Air Force, where he was a computer security officer in the 7th Communications Group at the Pentagon, and a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).


Visionary Academic Leader:

Dr Ambareen Siraj, Professor/Director: CEROC, Tennessee Tech & Founder: WiCyS

Dr Ambareen Siraj is currently serving as the Director of the Cybersecurity Education, Research, and Outreach Center at Tennessee Tech. Dr Siraj’s research areas of interest include smart grid security, sensor alert fusion with alert correlation and alert clustering, security metrics, security education and workforce development. She has authored/co-authored around fifty journal and conference articles in these areas. She leads several National Science Foundation Projects. Dr Siraj is the Founder and Chair of the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) conference.


Visionary Governance Champion:

Jim Nash, State Representative, Minnesota House of Representatives

Rep. Jim Nash is a 4th term member of the MN House of Representatives serving the communities of Western Carver County. He also works in the cyber security industry for FRSecure and advocates for cyber security everywhere. When not working at the House or FRSecure he loves to hunt, fish, and cook. Nash lives in Waconia with his wife and 6 children.


Visionary Applications Security Leader:

Jay Jacobs, Chief Data Scientist, Cyentia

Jay is a Co-founder and Chief Data Scientist at Cyentia Institute, a research firm dedicated to advancing the state of information security knowledge and practice through data-driven research.  Jay is also the lead author for the Exploit Prediction Scoring System (EPSS) and is co-chair of the EPSS special interest group at FIRST. He is also a co-founder of the Society for Information Risk Analysts (SIRA), a not-for-profit association dedicated to advancing risk management practices where he served on the board of directors for several years. Finally, Jay is a co-author of “Data-Driven Security”, a book covering data analysis and visualizations for information security professionals.


Visionary Global Leader:

Malcolm Harkins, Security & Trust Officer with Epiphany Systems

Malcolm is responsible for enabling client growth with optimal information security infrastructure, systems, policies, and processes. He is a featured industry speaker, author, and has testified on cybersecurity before the US Senate. Malcolm was previously the Chief Security and Trust Officer at Cylance as well as Chief Security and Privacy Officer at Intel Corporation. He is a board member and advisor to other growth-stage cybersecurity companies. Malcolm received a BS in Economics from UC Irvine and an MBA from UC Davis.


Visionary Governance, Risk and Compliance Leader:

Kumar Dasani, Director, Medtronic

Collaborative leader and trusted advisor to the business on cyber security and privacy risk identification, risk management and risk reporting. Dedicated, and results-oriented leader with proven experience in cyber security and privacy governance, third-party risk management, risk assessments, data privacy and regulatory compliance across multiple industries. Proven track record and experience in compliance, risk management and audit disciplines with strong problem-solving skills, relationship building, team building and development, and communication skills.


Visionary Security Awareness Program Leader:

Talya Gepner, Director, Target Corporation

Talya Gepner is a Director in the Cybersecurity Risk organization at Target. Talya leads Information Security awareness and training for the Enterprise and high-priority groups.  Her projects include compliance training, phishing awareness, National Cyber Security Awareness month campaigns and other risk-focused initiatives.


Visionary Security Program and Oversight Leader:

John Valente, Security Consultant

John has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. His professional IT career includes Citibank, Pepsi, Dell, Best Buy, and 3M, before retiring in late 2019. John’s career has focused mainly on Information Technology Infrastructure, architecture and management. He has experience in building & managing large global organizations and has focused on Information Security, Risk and Compliance for the last 12 years. He serves as a CXO Executive Advisor for Zscaler and on the board of advisors for Pacer Center


Visionary Student:

Alex Hepp, Student, Metropolitan State University

Alex Hepp is a graduate student at Metropolitan State University in the Cyber Operations program researching the application of artificial intelligence to honey pots to better detect malicious activity.  In his professional career, he currently serves as the Chief Information Officer for the City of Hopkins along with teaching cybersecurity as a community faculty.


Visionary Security Operations Leader:

Debra Stafford, Security Manager, Minnesota IT Services

Debra leads the state’s enterprise identity and access management team dedicated to building an environment where employees, contractors, partners and citizens manage only one credential to access State resources. Deb is building a framework of processes, policies and technologies to manage digital identities and secure access for all state technology solutions.  She is most proud of her track record for creating a highly motivated diverse workforce with a reputation for getting the job done well.