Ryan Dsouza, primary ideas engineer for AWS Security Profile

AWS Security Profile: Ryan Dsouza, Principal Solutions Architect

   <p><em>In the </em><a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/tag/aws-security-profile/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>AWS Security Profile</em></a><em> series, I interview some of the humans who work in </em><a href="https://aws.amazon.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Amazon Web Services</em></a> <em>Security and help keep our customers safe and secure. This interview is with </em><a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryandsouzaaws/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Ryan Dsouza</em></a><em>, Principal Solutions Architect for industrial internet of things (IIoT) security. </em></p> 
   <h3>How long have you been at AWS and what do you do in your current role?</h3> 
   <p>I’ve been with AWS for over five years and have held several positions working with customers, <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/partners/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">AWS Partner Network</a> partners, and standards organizations on IoT and IIoT solutions. Currently, I’m a Principal Solutions Architect for IIoT security. In this role, I’m the global technical leader and subject matter expert for operational technology (OT) and IIoT security, which means that I lead our OT/IIoT strategy and roadmap, translate customer requirements into technical solutions, and work with industry standards such as <a href="https://www.isa.org/standards-and-publications/isa-standards/isa-iec-62443-series-of-standards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ISA/IEC 62443</a> to support IIoT and cloud technologies. I also work with our strategic OT/IIoT security partners to design and build integrations and solutions on AWS. And I work with some of our strategic customers to help them plan, <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/assessing-ot-and-iiot-cybersecurity-risk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">assess, and manage the risk</a> that comes from <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/managing-organizational-transformation-for-successful-ot-it-convergence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OT/IT convergence</a> and to design, build, and operate more secure, scalable, and innovative IIoT solutions by using AWS capabilities to deliver measurable business outcomes.</p> 
   <h3>How did you get started in the world of OT and IIoT security?</h3> 
   <p>I’ve been working with OT for more than 25 years and with IIoT, for the last 10 years. I’ve led digital transformation initiatives for numerous world-class organizations including Accenture, Siemens, General Electric, IBM, and AECOM, serving customers on their digital transformation initiatives across a wide range of industry verticals such as manufacturing, buildings, utilities, smart cities, and more.</p> 
   <p>Throughout my career, I witnessed devices across critical infrastructure sectors, such as water, manufacturing, electricity, transportation, oil and gas, and buildings, getting digitized and connected to the internet. I quickly realized that this trend of connected assets and digitization will continue to grow and could outstrip the supply of cybersecurity professionals. Each customer that embraces the digital world faces cybersecurity challenges. At AWS, I work with customers to understand these challenges and provide prescriptive and practical guidance on how to secure their OT environments and IIoT solutions to help ensure <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/ten-security-golden-rules-for-industrial-iot-solutions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">safe and secure digital transformation</a>.</p> 
   <h3>What makes OT security different from information technology (IT) security?</h3> 
   <p>OT and IT security are two distinct areas of security that are designed to protect different types of systems and assets. OT security is concerned with the protection of industrial control systems and other related operational technology, such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, which are used to control and monitor physical processes in critical infrastructure industries such as manufacturing, energy, transportation, buildings, and utilities. The main focus of OT security is on the availability, integrity, safety, and reliability of these systems, as well as protection of the physical equipment that is being controlled. OT cybersecurity supports the safe operation of critical infrastructure. IT security, on the other hand, is concerned with the protection of computer systems, networks, and data from cyberthreats such as hacking, malware, and phishing attempts. The main focus of IT security is on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and systems.</p> 
   <p>As a result of OT/IT convergence, IIoT, and the industrial digital transformation, our customers now must secure an increasing attack surface and overlapping IT and OT environments. They realize that it is business critical to secure OT/IIoT systems to avoid security events that could cause unplanned downtime and pose a safety risk. I refer to this as “securing cyber-physical systems and enabling safe and secure industrial digital transformation.”</p> 
   <h3>How do you explain your job to your non-tech friends?</h3> 
   <p>I explain that OT is used in buildings, manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and more, and when these systems connect to the internet, they’re exposed to risks. The risks are the same as those faced by IoT devices in our own homes and workplaces—but with greater consequences if compromised because these systems deal with critical infrastructure that our society relies on. I often share the Colonial Pipeline example and explain that I help AWS customers understand the risks and the consequences from a compromise, and design cybersecurity solutions to protect these critical infrastructure assets.</p> 
   <h3>What are you currently working on that you’re excited about?</h3> 
   <p>Our customers use lots of security tools from lots of different vendors. Security is a team sport, and I’m really excited to be working with customers, APN partners, and AWS service teams to build security features and product integrations that make it simpler for customers to monitor and secure OT, IIoT, and the cloud. For example, I’m working with our <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/security/partner-solutions/?blog-posts-cards.sort-by=item.additionalFields.createdDate&blog-posts-cards.sort-order=desc&partner-solutions-cards.sort-by=item.additionalFields.partnerNameLower&partner-solutions-cards.sort-order=asc&awsf.partner-solutions-filter-partner-type=*all&awsf.Filter%20Name%3A%20partner-solutions-filter-partner-categories=*all&awsf.partner-solutions-filter-partner-location=*all&partner-case-studies-cards.sort-by=item.additionalFields.sortDate&partner-case-studies-cards.sort-order=desc&events-master-partner-webinars.sort-by=item.additionalFields.startDateTime&events-master-partner-webinars.sort-order=asc" target="_blank" rel="noopener">APN security partners</a> to build integrations with <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/security-hub/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">AWS Security Hub</a> and <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/security-lake/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amazon Security Lake</a>, bring zero trust security solutions to OT environments, and improve security at the industrial edge.</p> 
   <p>Another project that I’m super excited about is bringing OT/IIoT security solutions to our critical infrastructure customers, including small and mid-sized organizations, by simplifying the deployment, management, procurement, and payment process so that customers can get more value from these AWS security solutions faster.</p> 
   <p>Another area of focus for me is tracking the fast-evolving critical infrastructure cybersecurity regulations, how they impact our customers, and the role that AWS can play to make it simpler for customers to align with these new <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/?nc=sn&loc=3&refid=9bc21f40-12f4-4d2b-8b8d-6f6f65ab19e6" target="_blank" rel="noopener">security and compliance</a> requirements.</p> 
   <p>Just like how the cloud transformed IT, I think the cloud will continue to revolutionize OT, and I’m super excited and energized to work with customers and APN partners to move OT and IIoT applications to the cloud and build nearly anything they can imagine faster and more cost-effectively on AWS. </p> 
   <h3>What are the biggest challenges in securing critical infrastructure systems?</h3> 
   <p>With critical infrastructure, the biggest challenge is legacy OT systems that may not have been designed with cybersecurity in mind and that use older operating systems and software, which can be difficult to upgrade and patch. These systems were designed to operate in an air-gapped environment, but there is a growing trend to connect them in new ways to IT systems. As IT and OT converge to support expanding business needs, air-gapped devices and perimeter security are no longer sufficient to address and defend against modern threats such as ransomware, data exfiltration, denial of service, and cryptocurrency mining. As OT and IT converge and OT becomes more cloud connected, the biggest challenge is to secure critical infrastructure that uses legacy and aging industrial control systems (ICS) and OT technology. We are seeing a trend to keep ICS/OT systems connected, but in smarter and more secure ways by using network segmentation, edge gateways, and the hybrid cloud so that if a problem occurs, you can still run the most important systems in an isolated and disconnected mode. For example, if your corporate systems are compromised with ransomware, you can disconnect your critical infrastructure systems from the external world and continue the most critical operations. There is a growing need to design innovative and highly distributed solution patterns to keep critical information and hybrid systems safe and secure. This is an area of focus for me at AWS.</p> 
   <h3>What else can enterprises do to manage OT/IT convergence and protect themselves from these security risks?</h3> 
   <p>I’ve done multiple presentations, blog posts, and whitepapers on this topic, and even if the solutions sound simple, they can be challenging to implement in industrial environments. I recommend reading the blog posts <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/managing-organizational-transformation-for-successful-ot-it-convergence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Managing Organization Transformation for Successful OT/IT Convergence</a> and <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/assessing-ot-and-iiot-cybersecurity-risk/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Assessing OT and IIoT cybersecurity risk</a>, and implementing the <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/ten-security-golden-rules-for-industrial-iot-solutions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ten security golden rules for IIoT solutions</a>. AWS offers lots of prescriptive guidance and solutions to help enterprises more safely and securely manage OT/IT convergence and mitigate risk with proper planning and implementation across the various aspects of business—people, processes, and technology. I encourage customers to start by focusing on the security fundamentals of securing identities, assessing their risk from OT/IT convergence, and improving their visibility into devices on the network and <a href="https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/iot/implement-security-monitoring-across-ot-iiot-and-cloud-with-aws-security-hub/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">across the converged OT and IT environment</a>. I also recommend using standards such as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufDOyseX7Mk" rel="noopener" target="_blank">ISA/IEC 62443</a>, which are comprehensive, <a href="https://www.isa.org/standards-and-publications/isa-standards/isa-iec-62443-series-of-standards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">consensus-based</a>, and form a strong basis for securing critical infrastructure systems.</p> 
   <h3>What skills do professionals need to be successful in critical infrastructure security?</h3> 
   <p>Critical infrastructure security sounds harder than it really is. When I train people, I break it down into bite-sized pieces that are simple to understand and implement. There is some mystery around cybersecurity, but it’s just a lot of small parts. You must learn what all the parts are, what the acronyms are, and how they fit together to form cyber-physical systems. When I describe it in a real-world application, most people pick it up quickly.</p> 
   <p>Curiosity and a desire to continue learning are important characteristics to have, because cybersecurity is a fast-evolving technology field. Empathy is also important because to secure a system, you must have empathy for the people behind the work and why their goals and needs are important. For example, in the OT world, you have operations folks who just want the thing to work. If an alarm is going off on their computer screen and they must react by clicking a button, they don’t want their screen to lock them out so they can’t click that button, because this could cause the plant to have big problems. So, you need to design a solution that matches user access controls with roles and responsibilities so that a plant operator can take corrective actions in an emergency situation.</p> 
   <p>Another example is patching critical OT systems that have vulnerabilities. This may not be possible due to the risk of causing unplanned downtime, and it could pose a safety risk or result in additional time and cost for recertification due to compliance requirements. You must have empathy for the people in this situation and their needs, and then, as a security professional, design around that so they can still have those things but in a more secure way. For example, you might need to create mechanisms to identify, network isolate, or replace legacy devices that aren’t capable of receiving updates. If you are detail-oriented and have strong curiosity and empathy, you can succeed in the field of critical infrastructure cybersecurity.</p> 
   <h3>What’s your favorite Amazon <a href="https://www.amazon.jobs/principles" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Leadership Principle</a>, and why?</h3> 
   <p>I have two favorite leadership principles: Learn and be Curious; and one that I initially discounted, Frugality. I believe that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, which is why I’m never done learning and seeking new ways to solve problems.</p> 
   <p>My view on the Frugality leadership principle is that we need to be frugal with each other’s time. There are so many competing demands on everyone’s time, and it’s important in a place like AWS to be mindful of that. Make sure you’ve done your due diligence on something before you broadly ask the question or escalate. Being frugal in my view is about being self-sufficient, learning to use self-service tools, and working with limited time or resources to deliver results.</p> 
   <p>I wake up every morning with the conviction that the world is always changing, and that, to succeed, I have to change faster by learning new skills and being frugal with time and resources.</p> 
   <h3>What’s the thing you’re most proud of in your career?</h3> 
   <p>I’m really proud of working with critical infrastructure customers across a diverse range of industries over the last 25 years and supporting their digital transformation initiatives. In the early part of my career, I was a design and commissioning engineer of industrial automation systems. In this role, I had the opportunity to design and commission new industrial plants and get them into operation, which was extremely fulfilling. I feel fortunate to have joined a company like AWS that takes cybersecurity seriously in developing its products and cloud services, and I’m proud to bring real-world experience in the design and security of cyber-physical systems to our critical infrastructure customers.</p> 
   <h3>If you had to pick an industry outside of engineering, what would you want to do?</h3> 
   <p>Growing up in India in a family of engineers and doctors, there were only two options: engineer or doctor. Both professions have the ability to change the world. Because my mother and brother worked at Siemens, I pursued a career in engineering. If I had to pick an industry outside of engineering, it would have been in the medical field.</p> 
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