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Episode #


Proofpoint's Selena Larson on How to Approach Threat Intelligence with Curiosity, Empathy, and Critical Thinking

Show Notes

In this week's episode of the Future of Cyber Risk podcast, David speaks to Selena Larson, Senior Threat Intelligence Analyst at Proofpoint, a company that offers compliance and cybersecurity solutions. They discuss how Selena's background in journalism informs what she does today, what a day in the life of a threat intelligence analyst looks like, and the best skills to have in security, which include empathy and critical thinking. They also discuss how ransomware is surfacing opportunities for change, the future of cyber risk and awareness, and advice for security practitioners.

Topics discussed:

  • How Selena got into threat intelligence through her former career as a journalist in the cybersecurity space, and how that work — asking questions, developing hypotheses, and communicating — relates to the threat intelligence she does now.

  • A day in the life of a threat intelligence analyst focused on cybercrime, the different actors Selena tracks, and the reports she writes to keep customers informed.

  • Why the best skill to have in security is empathy, and the importance of remembering that there's a human victim at the end of every attack.

  • The need for critical thinking skills in security in order to consider different perspectives and solve problems, as well as good communication skills to articulate why certain issues matter.

  • How the biggest challenge today — ransomware — has exposed weakness in organizations and industries, and how there will hopefully be a shift in resourcing organizations for increased protection.

  • Why the future of cyber risk is heading towards more awareness, and how more mindfulness and improved behaviors will increasingly make a threat actor's job harder to do.

  • Advice for others in cybersecurity, including a caveat around AI and optimism around how cybersecurity truly makes the world better.

Quotes from Episode


"Remember that there's always someone on the other end that's experiencing something that really sucks. And not to victim blame, but think about how we, as a community and as security practitioners ourselves, can make the space better so that there are fewer victims of cybercrime." (10:43)


"For a really long time there was a failure to effectively communicate why security was important, why it mattered, and what people could do about it in a way that was accessible to a broad audience. I think it's getting a lot better." (14:04)


"There are going to have to be big shifts from external sources to elevate the security of these underfunded, under-budgeted organizations. ... I think that hopefully we do start addressing some of those systemic problems that are leading to these really devastating and honestly very sad ransomware attacks." (23:37)


"The Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident and JBS Foods was another ransomware incident, happened very close to each other. That was a huge driver of people being like, 'Wait a minute, we have to take this a lot more seriously.'" (30:27)


"It's important to really remember that the work that we're doing is hugely beneficial and does have an impact on the landscape overall. Ultimately we are making our organizations, our communities, the world that we live in a much better place." (33:42)

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