This is the first in a series of Q&A with Lebanese cybersecurity practitioners and we have the great pleasure to start with Khalil Sehnaoui (on the right in the picture taken at DefCon22). Khalil very generously answered our questions.
TSB >> How did you get started in Infosec/Cybersecurity?
Khalil >> I guess you can say I’m one of the ‘old’ players in this field as I started more than 20 years ago. Well obviously it was not InfoSec then, it was more just fooling around with computers and coding. Actually I think at the time Information Security was not even a big issue as it was all very new and there was no awareness.
At the time it was just about being curious and wanting to explore this new technology as much as possible. I think this is what makes the Hacker mindset: Curiosity and a certain thirst for knowledge. It is not something that can be taught. People who will study computer engineering or the likes end up working as IT people for companies, but hackers take that extra step towards understanding what things can do, what they were meant to do, and what else they can make them do. In that light we can say that some of the world’s greatest hackers were the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci or Einstein.
So my curiosity was always focused towards computing, networks and coding. And even though I followed a very different path in my studies (MBA in Economics), this passion never left me and I was behind my terminals whenever I had time.
TSB >> Why did you choose this field?
Khalil >> Growing up learning how to ‘break’ things and reconstruct them, it was only natural for me to eventually end up in the InfoSec field as once you know how things are broken, then you become good at putting them back together and securing them.
I chose this field because it is what I love to do, because it is the natural field of all our community. I would be doing this stuff whether I was getting paid for it or not. There are so many threats in the Cyber world today and so few people that know how to protect against them, that this is where I feel I can make a difference.
TSB >> Do you consider that Cybersecurity is a failure today and how do you see it evolving in the 5 upcoming years?
Khalil >> I do not think that it is a failure, but I definitely think that more efforts should be done. There will never be a thick such as 100 % secure systems. The main thing is to get as close to really secure as possible, and keep the security evolving as threats evolve every day.
In the region of the world that we, as Krypton Security, evolve in the problems are different. There is a huge lack of awareness when it comes to Information Security, mainly due to poor reporting by the mainstream media of all the dangers it carries. Most people still think that InfoSec is someone else’s problem. Also the perception from IT departments is still that InfoSec people are coming to show management that they are not doing their jobs well enough, instead of seeing us as complementary aides to their security, intervening on aspects they cannot know about.
The Western countries have already suffered major attacks over the course of the past years, and these attacks have been widely publicized, so the general public and corporations management are aware and respond in mind to these threats. This has not really happened yet in the MENA region but I expect it will soon as the day cyber-criminals will realize how unprotected the region is I think it will be a cyber-bloodbath! This is why I wanted to be ahead of that curve and offer the services of Krypton and we have had a really good first year as awareness is raising, slowly but raising.
I think in the next five years attacks will become more sophisticated and much more devastating. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but that is my opinion. Mostly attacks will focus on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) as most of the Internet traffic is starting to come from such devices and they are easy targets as general users have little awareness of the dangers.
Also I see one of the problems being that since the technology market is consumer driven, and people are always wanting new products with better technology, most companies are rolling out software and hardware without taking the proper time to ensure security as that would delay the products and would make them lose money. So we are ending up with lots of new products poorly secured! That is a trend I see rising in the next few years, unfortunately.