André Stewart, head of EMEA for Californian cloud security firm Netskope, talks about using artificial intelligence to fight cybercrime, the history of French cycling — and his passion for battery tech
What is your role and who do you work for?
I’m the Vice President of EMEA and Latin America for the Silicon Valley cloud security company, Netskope. Working in this role means I am responsible for overseeing sales, marketing, system engineering and professional services – essentially growing the same business that has been set up in the United States here in the EMEA region.
How long have you been in IT?
About 25 years now, of which probably 17 of those years have been in some form of IT security. More recently, in the last six or seven years, I’ve worked in what I would call cybersecurity – this involves a greater focus on dealing with hackers and cybercriminals.
What is your most interesting project to date?
It’s hard to define one project as a favourite, but I think the most interesting part of this business is in trying to understand how the cybercriminals are moving and how they launch their attacks. I got involved with trying to track Distributed Denial of Service attacks when I was at a company called Corero, I then moved to OpenDNS and tracked how they command, control and work their botnets. As part of this I learned about how they move in the cyber space from one domain to another without being tracked.
When I was working at OpenDNS I had the fascinating experience of using artificial intelligence and massive data analysis to track cybercriminals. Since then cybersecurity has evolved, and today cybercriminals have become far more pervasive. Businesses need cloud security systems like ours to keep track of emerging forms of attack like cryptojacking and sophisticated ransomware. Observing the transformation of this space is something I find highly interesting.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Personally, my biggest challenge is trying to get fit enough to cycle with Team GB in the World Championships. But workwise, I think the biggest challenge we face is trying to explain what we do, why we are different, what is real and what is marketing.
The market for cloud security is growing fast and everyone wants a piece of it. In the current environment, you have the legacy security players like Cisco and Symantec, all talking about cloud security. They all use the same jargon and often see cloud security as a bolt-on to traditional perimeter products. Then you have niche, end-point security providers who recognise the cloud opportunity so are spouting similar soundbites, yet their solutions are not cloud-native, meaning that they are at best offering part-time security.
There’s still a lot of work to be done to make our voice heard, and continue to articulate why our cloud-first approach sets us head and shoulders ahead of the others. We want to help businesses understand that legacy and end-point security solutions simply cannot adequately address the new challenges and risks created by new ways of working in today’s cloud and web-first world; that cloud security has to sit at the heart of a modern enterprise’s security portfolio.
What technology were you working with ten years ago?
10 years ago, I was working in the network security space, we had things like datacentre technology and firewalls, tackling DDoS attacks and implementing intrusion prevention.
What is your favourite technology of all time?
It has to be the internet, with it we have unlocked endless possibilities since it was created.
How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation?
The Internet of Things picks up data everywhere, which can be good, but depending on how severely it invades your privacy it can be very bad. For Netskope, the Internet of Things creates numerous and different vectors for cybercriminals to attack, they can use IoT as a compute power resource for cryptomining for example, it’s out there and it is everywhere, and it’s picking up a lot of data.
What smartphone do you use?
What three apps could you not live without?
I use Strava for sport and that’s key for me these days. Expensify changed my life, it does all of my expenses by just taking a photo and then I get paid, just a massive reduction of time waste that I had previously. Then the final one is my banking app, FirstDirect, which I use all the time.
What new technology are you most excited for a) your business and b) yourself?
For my business, we have this capacity with one platform to see all data movement from all apps within an organisation. This ability is exciting because we are not just looking at applications used for business, but also social networking applications like Facebook and things like AWS and Azure to see the data there.
I know it’s a bit geeky, but I am most fascinated by battery technology. I just think when battery technology is sorted out we will have a real acceleration in the use of electric cars, but also anything else that needs to be charged — devices will be able to survive a lot longer than they do today.
If you weren’t doing the job you do now, what would you be doing?
I do have another endeavour, a cycling lifestyle and apparel store called Café du Cycliste that was born out of my passion for the sport. Based in Nice, the business is a homage to the proud history of French cycling, and that is where I would be working if I wasn’t doing what I am right now.