In the AWS Security Profile series, we interview Amazon Web Services (AWS) thought leaders who help keep our customers safe and secure. This interview features Jana Kay, Cloud Security Strategist. Jana shares her unique career journey, insights on the Security and Resiliency of the Cloud Tabletop Exercise (TTX) program, thoughts on the data protection and cloud security landscape, and more.
How long have you been at AWS and what do you do in your current role?
I’ve been at AWS a little over four years. I started in 2018 as a Cloud Security Strategist, and in my opinion, I have one of the coolest jobs at AWS. I get to help customers think through how to use the cloud to address some of their most difficult security challenges, by looking at trends and emerging and evolving issues, and anticipating those that might still be on the horizon. I do this through various means, such as whitepapers, short videos, and tabletop exercises. I love working on a lot of different projects, which all have an impact on customers and give me the opportunity to learn new things myself all the time!
How did you get started in the security space? What about it piqued your interest?
After college, I worked in the office of a United States senator, which led me to apply to the Harvard Kennedy School for a graduate degree in public policy. When I started graduate school, I wasn’t sure what my focus would be, but my first day of class was September 11, 2001, which obviously had a tremendous impact on me and my classmates. I first heard about the events of September 11 while I was in an international security policy class, taught by the late Dr. Ash Carter. My classmates and I came from a range of backgrounds, cultures, and professions, and Dr. Carter challenged us to think strategically and objectively—but compassionately—about what was unfolding in the world and our responsibility to effect change. That experience led me to pursue a career in security. I concentrated in international security and political economy, and after graduation, accepted a Presidential Management Fellowship in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, where I worked for 16 years before coming to AWS.
What’s been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the security industry?
From the boardroom to builder teams, the understanding that security has to be integrated into all aspects of an organization’s ecosystem has been an important shift. Acceptance of security as foundational to the health of an organization has been evolving for a while, and a lot of organizations have more work to do, but overall there is prioritization of security within organizations.
I understand you’ve helped publish a number of papers at AWS. What are they and how can customers find them?
Good question! AWS publishes a lot of great whitepapers for customers. A few that I’ve worked on are Accreditation Models for Secure Cloud Adoption, Security at the Edge: Core Principles, and Does data localization cause more problems than it solves? To stay updated on the latest whitepapers, see AWS Whitepapers & Guides.
What are your thoughts on the security of the cloud today?
There are a lot of great technologies—such as AWS Data Protection services—that can help you with data protection, but it’s equally important to have the right processes in place and to create a strong culture of data protection. Although one of the biggest shifts I’ve seen in the industry is recognition of the importance of security, we still have a ways to go for people to understand that security and data protection is everyone’s job, not just the job of security experts. So when we talk about data protection and privacy issues, a lot of the conversation focuses on things like encryption, but the conversation shouldn’t end there because ultimately, security is only as good as the processes and people who implement it.
Do you have a favorite AWS Security service and why?
I like anything that helps simplify my life, so AWS Control Tower is one of my favorites. It has so much functionality. Not only does AWS Control Tower help you set up multi-account AWS environments, you can use it to help identify which of your resources are compliant. The dashboard, which allows for visibility of provisioned accounts, controls enabled policy enforcement and can help you detect noncompliant resources.
What are you currently working on that you’re excited about?
Currently, my focus is the Security and Resiliency of the Cloud Tabletop Exercise (TTX). It’s a 3-hour interactive event about incident response in which participants discuss how to prevent, detect, contain, and eradicate a simulated cyber incident. I’ve had the opportunity to conduct the TTX in South America, the Middle East, Europe, and the US, and it’s been so much fun meeting customers and hearing the discussions during the TTX and how much participants enjoy the experience. It scales well for groups of different sizes—and for a single customer or industry or for multiple customers or industries—and it’s been really interesting to see how the conversations change depending on the participants.
How does the Security and Resiliency of the Cloud Tabletop Exercise help security professionals hone their skills?
One of the great things about the tabletop is that it involves interacting with other participants. So it’s an opportunity for security professionals and business leaders to learn from their peers, hear different perspectives, and understand all facets of the problem and potential solutions. Often our participants range from CISOs to policymakers to technical experts, who come to the exercise with different priorities for data protection and different ideas on how to solve the scenarios that we present. The TTX isn’t a technical exercise, but participants link their collective understanding of what capabilities are needed in a given scenario to what services are available to them and then finally how to implement those services. One of the things that I hope participants leave with is a better understanding of the AWS tools and services that are available to them.
How can customers learn more about the Security and Resiliency of the Cloud Tabletop Exercise?
To learn more about the TTX, reach out to your account manager.
Is there something you wish customers would ask you about more often?
I wish they’d ask more about what they should be doing to prepare for a cyber incident. It’s one thing to have an incident response plan; it’s another thing to be confident that it’s going to work if you ever need it. If you don’t practice the plan, how do you know that it’s effective, if it has gaps, or if everyone knows their role in an incident?
How about outside of work—any hobbies?
I’m the mother of a teenager and tween, so between keeping up with their activities, I wish I had more time for hobbies! But someday soon, I’d like to get back to traveling more for leisure, reading for fun, and playing tennis.
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