Derek Nugent: “all companies should measure and track their security posture“

Originally posted on Cybernews.com by the Cybernews Team.

As security threats continually evolve, simplifying IT operations as a whole becomes more crucial than ever.

Today, when cyber-attacks can no longer be stopped by antivirus software or firewalls, the importance of SecOps – a collaboration between IT security and operations teams – has started to rise. You must, however, understand what it is and how it can help when modernizing an enterprise before deciding whether or not to use it in your own company.

To help you find answers to these questions, we invited Derek Nugent, VP of Revenue at Difenda – a privately held SecOps-As-A-Service company, with over a decade of experience.

Tell us a little bit about your history. How did Difenda originate?

Difenda was founded in 2008 as a Canadian-based organization. At this time, we did everything from a managed security services perspective leveraging many different technologies.

But we got out of that business early on to focus on a more outcome-driven service model. This was key for us because more and more organizations continue to want outcome-driven services that are going to help them reduce risk and mature their organizational program.

So, in early 2019 we made the decision to solely focus and power our services with the Microsoft Security ecosystem. Now, we help our customers manage their Microsoft Security tools and help streamline response capabilities through automation so that we can protect our customer’s networks faster and wiser.

Today our growth model has led us to expand into the USA, experience 40% year-over-year growth in people, and double down on our capabilities with Microsoft collectively so that we can continue to be a valuable partner.

This year we have formalized our channel partner strategy program with the Difenda Build Program. By partnering with leading channel providers and Microsoft licensing resellers we provide a larger set of customers with unmatched cybersecurity services and solutions.

Can you introduce us to Difenda Shield? What are its key features?

The Difenda Shield is an integrated cybersecurity suite of consumable service modules that gives companies the tools they need to stay vigilant, agile, and collaborative in the evolving threat landscape. It is designed to provide customers with the capabilities to pick and close gaps based on their security operational program by leveraging their investments in technology.

The Difenda Shield platform offers enhanced security with a streamlined ‘SecOps-as-a-Service’ experience through highly automated and orchestrated processes based on integrations with Microsoft 365 services and other industry-leading technologies.

With the Difenda Sheild, our customers can respond to potential threats faster through Managed Detection and Response (MDR) for IT and MDR for OT and can minimize the window of opportunity for attackers with automated vulnerability management through our Advanced Vulnerability Management (AVM) services, and keep up with the constantly evolving regulatory landscape with a streamlined approach and frameworks with our managed Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) services.

Not only that but having our cybersecurity experts create and co-manage your Microsoft Security stack through our Difenda Shield services enables valuable automation and orchestration processes while also providing customers with increased visibility across their security environment.

What technology do you use to detect threats before it is too late?

Our modern four-step methodology consists of threat profiling, threat detection, threat hunting, and threat response, all of which are powered by Microsoft.

We also leverage leading technology like Anomali to provide additional context and insight that helps develop automation and integration capabilities to provide an increased amount of outcomes to customers.

How do you think the recent global events influenced the ways in which threat actors operate?

The pandemic opened a new area of business where organizations were working differently, such as remotely, which provided an influx of capabilities and access points where attackers were able to infiltrate their network. This is obvious when you look at the number of breaches organizations have faced in the past two years alone.

On the flip side, with constantly advancing technology, attackers have been able to leverage legacy technologies in critical infrastructure to maximize dollars and cyber warfare. Both the evolution of technology and the traditional thought processes around security that many c-suite executives tend to have contributed to the sophistication of how threat actors operate.

Additionally, the current economic uncertainties provide people with an increased amount of curiosity in finding alternative income streams. As we move into the upcoming recession we predict a substantial increase in cyber threats, attacks, and breaches, especially for organizations with outdated or legacy technologies as their core infrastructure.

In the coming months, the threat landscape will broaden to include a new generation of amateur attackers with a significant focus on profitable data. That is concerning because when recessions come the first thing companies tend to do is reduce people, such as IT or security. This is the opposite of what needs to happen which is why managed security services are going to be so important in the near future.

In the age of frequent cyberattacks, do you think small businesses and big enterprises should rely on the same security measures?

It all depends on the risk of the business. Yes, all companies should be aligning themselves with tools to measure and track their security posture. But some organizations have a bigger risk profile and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with company size.

What will be important is the ability for organizations to define their risk and their crown jewel data. Once companies know what they need to protect that insight will dictate how much they should be focusing on security.

Despite all the solutions and services available, certain organizations still struggle with upgrading their cybersecurity. Why do you think that is the case?

Today, security is a cost center, so when you allocate budget to something that does not generate revenue, unfortunately, it doesn’t equal money. Even in IT when you talk about how digital transformation is being deployed even though it’s a cost center.

But it’s because it is transforming the business helps to fastrack revenue. Cybersecurity will never do that. Unless there is a specific requirement like many licenses and certifications that make it a relevant revenue driver.

As work from home becomes the new normal, what do you think are the worst cybersecurity habits that can put not only an organization’s workforce but also its customers at risk?

Humans are and always will be the biggest cybersecurity risk to businesses because we are innately curious. Human curiosity is the worst cybersecurity habit because it creates distractions that threat actors feed on. Remote working only elevated human risk because when you are at home you have an increased level of distraction, eventually leading to mistakes.

That is why we see all this discussion around the importance of endpoint detection and response; businesses are looking to solve human error. Phishing attacks will always be the number one way into a business and the only way to mitigate that risk is cybersecurity awareness training and having an excellent security program that can mitigate the impact of breaches.

What new cyber threats do you think can become a prominent problem in the near future? What can average individuals and organizations do to protect themselves?

In the near future identity and access will be huge and many companies need to pay attention to this if they are not already. Controlling who and from where people can access company data will be a major factor in protecting our networks.

Additionally, vulnerability management and patching will continue to be the most significant risk to a business as it has been since IT started. Businesses will need to focus on creating programs around vulnerability management and taking patching seriously will be integral to moving forward. Many people forget that legacy equipment cannot be upgraded which creates increased risk because internal teams do not treat patching as a program.

IT teams regularly miss patching or system upgrades that can protect their environment. Unfortunately with the evolution of technology, businesses simply have too many technologies to make vulnerability management and patching a priority. This only further highlights how important it is to consolidate security services. Where there is consolidation, technology is easier to patch and maintain long-term.

For example, the old school mentality where businesses expect you to have a personal and work computer or laptop and phone. That needs to go. Having so many attack services for one person only makes it so much easier for attacks to happen.

Share with us, what is next for Difenda?

At Difenda we are all about changing the game in cybersecurity. Currently, consuming cybersecurity tools and services is a time-consuming process; a key focus for Difenda moving forward will be automation. We want to create automated patching capabilities.

Our goal is to make it easy for customers to consume our products and grow toward a “click of a button” functionality and mentality. Want to help measure your security technology through a click of a button? Think of the Microsoft Azure Marketplace – that’s where they are going too.

Discover more about Difenda here.

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Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Microsoft Partner Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is responsible for driving growth within our Microsoft Partnership. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on our customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Ian Miersch

Ian Miersch has energy to spare, and uses his eclectic background to make a positive mark on the cybersecurity industry. As Vice President of Finance & Human Resources, Ian Miersch is responsible for overseeing scalable business growth as Difenda expands throughout North America. But it is the way he does it that sets him apart. By leveraging his engineering background and critical thinking skills, he has been able to develop unique strategies that balance the company’s current business needs with its long-term growth plans. And the results of his unique background and drive mean that the company is growing in a fiscally responsible manner, all with the customer’s needs at the forefront.

With a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering, coupled with an MBA in Finance, both from McMaster University, Ian’s ability to analyze data and make informed decisions is augmented by his ability to understand all facets of the business. He has a holistic understanding of the craft, from operations to project delivery and management, to his niche in financial planning. Ian’s ten years of experience in the industry mean that he has seen it all, and knows how to create a dynamic team and manage the resources needed for success.

Outside of work, he uses his energy to help others through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, earning the Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

Ian also enjoys exploring and hiking with his three young children, exercising (so he can keep up with them), and reading professional development books. He is an avid but generally heartbroken fan of the Toronto sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptors.

Derek Nugent

Derek Nugent, Vice President, Revenue lives by the motto “Be early, be better.” Derek leads our Sales and Marketing team and is responsible for customer success, as well as pre-sales and sales enablement. His high energy level and creativity have built high performing teams, whether at the Herjavec Group, CDW, or in his current leadership role at Difenda.

After earning a Bachelor Administration and Management degree from the Academy of Learning, Derek started in the information technology industry in 2004 and transitioned to the cybersecurity industry in 2014. With so much experience in a wide-variety of roles, he is poised to take the team at Difenda to the next level.

He excels at leading revenue strategies, new market entry, partnership engagement, and customer acquisition and retention. His work ethic and interest in rising to the top motivate his sales teams, who respond well to his passion and zeal. Under his tutelage, they are able to achieve attractive lead generation, YOY growth, and sizable deals. Derek works tirelessly to build a better team, and his constituents follow his road to success, which ultimately leads to a rewarding experience for the customer.

Even when volunteering, Derek is all in. He was a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2005-2015, earning Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

And when he isn’t busy leading the team to the acme of sales, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, running, working out, watching thrillers, action and dramatic television shows

Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora, Difenda’s Founder and CEO has always been ahead of the curve in Technology and Cyber Security. After securing his engineering degree in Computer Science, he wrote his first mobile banking application when he was just 23 years old. This accomplishment certainly set him apart from the crowd and prepared him for a lifetime of innovation and success in his field. At just 25 years old, he was selected as the youngest Cyber Security Officer for one of the largest banks in Asia.

As a globetrotting young cyber security professional, Manoj was instrumental in designing cyber security infrastructure and controls for some of the largest institutions around the world. Depth of his expertise and passion to serve customers at the highest level of competence and integrity lead to Difenda. Founded in 2008, Difenda is a rapidly growing cybersecurity firm operating in North America and Asia.

As the CEO at Difenda, Manoj drives the strategic vision to protect our customers and enable our team members to deliver our services in line with core values- competence, integrity, and innovation. Currently one of Microsoft’s leading North American partners, Difenda reflects Manoj’ single-minded focus on our customers. Difenda is fully vested in success of its customers and takes pride in considering our success as a byproduct of our customers. Manoj has always been committed to building a great team and forging strong partnerships to serve our customers with standards that top our industry.

When he is not busy bringing cybersecurity to the world, Manoj enjoys playing golf and squash, and continues to travel the world.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

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