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A Q&A with Raheel Qureshi

It’s always insightful to meet new people and new colleagues, especially when starting at a new organization. This week I had the pleasure of sitting with Raheel Qureshi, a cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur who joined Calian with the iSecurity acquisition.

It was a timely chat, considering it is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and SecTor, where Raheel took to the stage to talk about being resilient under the pressures of looming IR Ransomware attacks.

It quickly became obvious that Raheel has a passion for tech and cybersecurity. In the field for more than 15 years, he has become a true subject matter expert in data protection, enterprise technology architecture and cloud security. He is an entrepreneur at heart, having co-founded iSecurity (recently purchased by Calian Group), a company that has built its reputation in industries such as healthcare, transportation, government, defence and security, utilities, aerospace, retail and media communications.

When taking some downtime, he spends time with family and tries his skills at basketball—no doubt driven by a childhood dream to become an NBA star. Raheel also finds time to give back, participating in multiple support groups for youth and international aid projects, connecting him to the community and giving back to those less fortunate.

Jacqueline: What gets you excited about the Cybersecurity industry?

Raheel: Each day is a different problem to solve, a new type of threat to track. The constant evolution of cybersecurity has also fostered a sense of collaboration across multiple industries. When I think of the power and impact cross-collaboration can have on expediting the maturity model of cybersecurity, it’s very exciting.

The landscape of cybersecurity is very large as it focuses on people, process and technology. And, behind all of that is data—the availability, integrity and confidentiality of information which has become a target for steep ransomware attacks.

Each domain within cybersecurity requires knowledge and being able to apply the thinking across all different domains. This gets me excited and energized to assist our customers with a solution that will protect them for years to come.

Being smarter and faster to the race keeps us one step ahead of hackers. Leading the race and helping customers stay ahead of the hacking game motivates me to be at my best every day for customers.

J: This year Calian purchased iSecurity—the company you co-founded—and Computex, which serves the U.S. market out of Houston, TX. What can we expect from the team as we move into 2023?

R: This is the transformation year for Calian ITCS. We are expanding our services footprint, offering a greater breadth of resources and innovative solutions that help healthcare, defense, retail, government and other industries, such as fintech, as they navigate through the ever-changing cyber landscape.

J: There is a lot of noise around cybersecurity, but if we were to cut to the chase, what should organizations be most concerned about as we approach 2023?

R: Many organizations are refreshing their technology footprint as the need grows for easier access to information. Traditionally, things used to be within the four walls, however, the pandemic has taught us a new way of working. With this shift, organizations are now executing on their approved budget for application and infrastructure modernization.

This provides new targets that threat actors will look out for. Risks include:

  • Internet-facing applications and infrastructures are targeted through advanced techniques by threat actors who will not only steal data but compromise the host layer of the applications.
  • Threat actors have developed advanced phishing techniques and are starting to take advantage of weaker hardening controls.
  • As organizations continue to develop cloud services, they have limited governance and the multiple shadow IT groups within the organization may not have a complete understanding of cybersecurity.
  • Hackers continue to target traditional anti-virus software and bypass the controls on the endpoint.
  • The dark web will continue to expose organizations ripe for hacking.
  • For organizations that have vendor/partner networks, hackers will leverage these as a gateway to propagate into client environments.

J: Do you think most companies consider cybersecurity to be a top priority today?

R: Some industries are faster to adopt best practices than others, but I would say that over the past couple of years cybersecurity awareness has exploded. We are starting to see members of the board and executives start to educate themselves on cybersecurity best practices. Board members have started to get educated and it’s on their agenda.

J: In your experience, is there an ongoing trend you observe, with customers, when it comes to building a solid cybersecurity plan?

R: One key observation we have made is that organizations now want to align their security programs to industry standards such as NIST CSF or ISO 27001. In addition, they are taking cybersecurity insurance policy requirements very seriously. This helps build resiliency and there is increased comfort to join forces with a cybersecurity partner as a managed services provider.

J: What can organizations do to better plan for cyber threats?

Threat actors are getting smarter and will always find new ways to execute their payloads into an organization’s tech environment. To win the cybersecurity race, organizations need to learn more about some of these key trends:

  • Identity and access management, along with privileged account management—Ensure secure-by-design principles are followed when refreshing applications, leveraging cloud services or infrastructure transformation.
  • Team and client collaboration platforms—Think about data classification and information leakage as well as insider and external threat actors, and document use cases which should be monitored for abnormal behaviour. Implement a data governance program with data classification and digital asset handling.
  • End-point cybersecurity controls—With remote users across the globe, organizations need to re-think virtual private network (VPN) strategy along with end-point detection and response. The landscape has evolved a lot and it’s important to not only select the right solution stack but also configure and maintain it securely.
  • Application security—Hackers are targeting applications on a continuous basis. Organizations need to implement an application technical vulnerability management program along with secure development lifecycle with static and dynamic testing.
  • User awareness—The legacy of training users is not the way to the future. Hackers will always find a way to phish a user. It’s important to create a culture and work with HR to embed cybersecurity in everyone’s job description. In addition, create a program for role-based training. Tabletop exercises should be conducted to learn from a simulation.
  • Trusted partner—There are lots of security providers out there, but very few who have actually done real cybersecurity incident response and understand the techniques and tactics of the attackers. At Calian, we have seen it all and understand a balanced approach with OpEx/CapEx spend and the right cybersecurity strategy.