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‘Covid-19 has been the perfect storm for adversaries’ in cybersecurity industry: CrowdStrike

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Michael Sentonas, Crowdstrike Chief Technology Officer, joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous to discuss global cyber threats.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Cybersecurity is more critical today than ever before. You've got more devices connected to the internet, more of us are working from home, more companies are moving their resources to the cloud. And that also means that attackers are getting more sophisticated. Cybersecurity software company CrowdStrike is out with its global threat report.

And joining me now to talk about it is CrowdStrike's Chief Technology Officer Michael Sentonas. Michael, thanks for being with us. When I took a look at this report, there were a number of troubling finds. One of the big trends was just how vulnerable our health care industry is to these kinds of attacks, and particularly how the COVID-19 vaccine is a primary target. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: Yeah, for sure. The COVID-19 has been a perfect storm for-- for adversaries for the last 12 months that really kicked off trying to take advantage of our concerns, preying on our fears, coming out with attacks, so a lot of phishing campaigns. And we've seen that evolve as we've gotten closer to a vaccine. We've seen adversaries targeting vaccine research.

And now as we're starting to administer vaccines around the world, we're starting to see, again, people focusing on that, using that as a lure. But also there's an opportunity to get access to a lot of people that are getting vaccines. And it's obviously very concerning, and we'll continue to see a real focus in that area.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Do you mean when you say information on people getting the vaccines, meaning that these hackers would be getting data on the people who are actually receiving the vaccines?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: Well, it's a great database. Adversaries are always looking to get information about people, getting people's personal information. We've now got a situation where millions and millions of people around the world are going to be getting online.

They're going to be registering for vaccines. They're going to put personal detail in there, in those systems, so it's an attractive target. And I'll certainly expect to see some issues in those areas.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: What about targeting of the supply chain? We saw some of that in 2020. Do you believe that that's going to continue? And are we going to still see these cyber attackers ask for financial payouts?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: The supply chain has been an issue that the industry has talked about for a number of years. And we obviously saw in the last six months or so a real focus in that area. It provides a massive opportunity for the attacker when they can impact the supply chain, in most cases the software supply chain.

It gives them initial access. It gives them a level of-- of accessibility to systems that they get complete access to-- to the entire environment, they can effectively do anything they want. And we've seen that's been very effective in a number of different examples. So we certainly think that that's going to rise. It's going to be a real focus and something that we have to continually work on to make sure it doesn't happen and our systems are safe and secure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: As CTO at CrowdStrike, how are you using artificial intelligence to predict and prevent these threats?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: It's one tool of many that we use, and we use it very heavily. We've looked at the traditional approaches to cybersecurity in the industry, and we've seen how they don't work. What I mean by that is using signatures to try to detect and stop attacks in real time, that's a model that I think 10 years ago started to-- to really struggle to keep up with the amount of-- of attacks. Now there's tens of millions of new pieces of malicious software released onto the internet every single day.

So we have to use machine learning, we have to use AI to try to prevent an attack in real time to stop it from happening. But it's important to also highlight that there are other techniques, hands-on keyboard techniques where we have to go beyond AI. We have to use threat-hunting people actively going hand-to-hand combat with the adversary to stop them in real time. And what makes it unique at CrowdStrike is the combination of-- of technology together with people that yields the outcome and helps us stop breaches.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I know that this week CrowdStrike's CEO was questioned by lawmakers, along with the CEOs of SolarWinds, FireEye, Microsoft. They were there to answer questions regarding that historic security breach we saw regarding SolarWinds last year . How can the cybersecurity industry work, I guess, better with the federal government to try to stave off these-- these nation state attacks in the future?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: Yeah, I think George really-- really summarized it well in his testimony and his remarks that we have to do a better job of working together around the world. We see attackers having free access to systems, really simple access to systems to government networks, to businesses around the world. We've got an opportunity to-- to share information better.

We've got an opportunity to help build our capabilities around the world to train more people and to make sure that we make it a lot harder for adversaries to be successful. It really is as simple as that. We see a rise in-- in actors that are financially motivated.

We see a rise in-- in nation states that are targeting our intellectual property, impacting our business. And anything that we can do to work collaboratively is a good thing. And I think this week's conversation really brought that to light. And there were some great recommendations put forward by all the panelists.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: In terms of CrowdStrike itself, I know that revenue growth has been strong. Customer retention was near 100% last quarter. And you're part of an addressable market that could be as much as $38, $39 billion in the next couple of years. Where do you see the biggest opportunity in your space for growth?

MICHAEL SENTONAS: Well, I mean, we're seeing significant growth on the back of strong demand for our technology. And certainly, that's going to continue with so much focus on cybersecurity. You know, we've-- we've continued to look at new capabilities, and we're bringing new modules to market, which are really successful.

And our customers are starting to trial more and more of these and convert over. We closed an acquisition last week that I'm incredibly excited about that I think helps us continue to build out our capabilities and help meet customer demand for better integrated technology that helps them stay safe and secure. So exciting opportunities across a number of different areas.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, a long runway, for sure, for growth. Michael Sentonas, CTO of CrowdStrike, thanks for being with us.