SOCRadar® Cyber Intelligence Inc. | Navigating the Cybersecurity Landscape: An Interview with Santiago J. López Galanes


Dec 26, 2023
6 Mins Read

Navigating the Cybersecurity Landscape: An Interview with Santiago J. López Galanes

The cybersecurity landscape continually evolves in an era where technological advancements are transforming industries. We had the privilege of sitting with Santiago J. López Galanes, an IT Cybersecurity Sr. Manager at Tecpetrol, a leading oil and gas exploration and production company. Santiago shared valuable insights into the emerging trends, challenges, and strategies that define the cybersecurity posture in the Energy sector. Let’s delve into the conversation.

Embracing Change: Navigating Trends and Technologies in Cybersecurity

Santiago kicked off the conversation by highlighting the dynamic nature of cybersecurity. He emphasized the impact of advanced digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and big data analytics, in enhancing operational efficiency within the Energy industry. Integrating these technologies facilitates process automation and necessitates a proactive cybersecurity approach. Santiago stressed the importance of embracing trends like integrating IoT technologies, data integrity solutions in the supply chain, and advanced analytics to detect anomalies in critical operations. Furthermore, he underlined the significance of strengthening personnel awareness and training in cybersecurity.

Santiago identified three primary threats in the Energy industry: cyberattacks on industrial control systems, cyber espionage threats, and the rising tide of ransomware attacks. He explained the evolving nature of cyber threats, noting the shift of ransomware attacks from the financial industry to the Energy sector. When asked about budget allocation, Santiago emphasized the importance of investing in protecting industrial control systems, enhancing threat detection and response capabilities, and providing continuous communications for personnel in cybersecurity.

Tackling Ransomware: Strategies and Technologies

With the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks, Santiago provided insights into effective detection and mitigation strategies. He highlighted the significance of early detection of Indicators of Compromise (IOCs), regular backups, and frequent software updates. Given the challenges of our industry, he stressed the need for proper network segmentation, especially in Operational Technology (OT) systems designed for prolonged use. Santiago also emphasized the importance of cybersecurity monitoring tools for industrial networks.

Santiago recognized the crucial role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in cybersecurity. These technologies, he noted, enhance the efficiency of threat detection and response by identifying vulnerabilities in network traffic through pattern analysis. While acknowledging the benefits, Santiago highlighted challenges, including the risk of cybercriminals leveraging AI for more sophisticated threats and potential biases in results due to skewed data. He emphasized the necessity of human oversight for critical decisions, underscoring the importance of ethical AI development.

Adapting to the New Normal: Cybersecurity in a Remote Work Environment

Addressing the expanded attack surface due to the rise of remote work, Santiago shared how Tecpetrol adapted its cybersecurity strategy. In the post-COVID era, they strengthened their systems, implemented multi-factor authentication, secured VPN connections, and provided ongoing security training. Regular audits assess the security posture of remote work environments and vendors, ensuring a robust cybersecurity stance.

Santiago expressed his conviction regarding the crucial role of Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) in anticipating and mitigating attacks. He emphasized the importance of intelligence about industry-specific threats, tactics of known malicious actor groups, and vulnerabilities affecting critical operations. CTI, he noted, provides valuable information to enhance security posture, enabling organizations to adapt to emerging threats effectively.

Dark Web Vigilance: Staying Ahead of Emerging Dangers

To combat threats from the Dark Web, Santiago stressed the importance of close collaboration with threat intelligence firms. Actively monitoring Dark Web forums enables organizations to identify emerging threats and anticipate and mitigate risks before they impact operations.

Recognizing the risk posed by third parties, Santiago explained Tecpetrol’s approach to ensuring suppliers and vendors adhere to security standards. Thorough security assessments, regular reviews, periodic audits, and direct collaboration address potential vulnerabilities in the supply chain.

Santiago shared Tecpetrol’s strategy for balancing known and emerging threats in threat prioritization. The organization focuses on a combination of preventive measures for known threats and a framework for a quick and effective response to emerging threats. Close collaboration with the Security Operations Center (SOC) provides a real-time view of the threat landscape, allowing Tecpetrol to proactively address known and emerging threats.

Strategic Security Investments: A Proactive Approach

Santiago discussed how Tecpetrol prioritizes security investments through maturity assessments, collaboration with the SOC, and continuous analysis of trends and emerging risks. Maximizing the utility of existing tools and strategic investment adjustments ensures the organization’s security posture effectively adapts to the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

While emphasizing continuous investment in advanced detection technologies and staff training, Santiago highlighted the importance of fully leveraging the capabilities of current tools. In this context, vendor support becomes crucial, ensuring organizations maximize the effectiveness of their security measures.

Using his role as a CISO frequently interacting with executive boards, Santiago outlined his strategies for effective communication with individuals lacking a technical background. Using a risk-based approach, he emphasized the need to convey information simply and understandably. Raising awareness at the executive level is crucial to help non-technical stakeholders grasp the implications of cybersecurity risks.

Acknowledging the cultural aspect of cybersecurity, Santiago discussed Tecpetrol’s approach to nurturing a culture of cybersecurity awareness. Annual cybersecurity training programs, constant phishing drills, and tools to assist employees in identifying threats contribute to building a secure digital culture. The strong support from the board further reinforces this cybersecurity culture.

Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Professionals: A Holistic Perspective

Sharing his perspective on the essential skills and experiences for cybersecurity professionals, Santiago highlighted the need for adaptability, continuous learning, strong technical knowledge, understanding of threats and vulnerabilities, analytical skills, effective communication, collaboration skills, and a keen awareness of ethics and integrity.

In closing, Santiago offered valuable advice for fellow CISOs in the cybersecurity field. He emphasized the importance of collaboration in addressing complex threats and the necessity of adaptability to stay updated on technological trends, emerging threats, and changing regulations. Fostering a security culture centered on awareness and shared responsibility, Santiago urged CISOs to view cybersecurity as a business enabler and effectively communicate its strategic importance to top management.

Santiago J. López Galanes provided deep insights into the intricacies of cybersecurity in the Energy sector, offering a roadmap for organizations to navigate the evolving threat landscape effectively. As the cybersecurity field continues to advance, the collaboration and adaptability emphasized by Santiago stand as crucial pillars for building a resilient security posture.

About Santiago J. López Galanes

With over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Santiago J. López Galanes brings a wealth of expertise in Information Security Management and Industrial Cybersecurity. His distinguished career is marked by a proven track record in establishing and implementing robust information security programs, showcasing a deep understanding of the evolving cyber threat landscape. Santiago J. López Galanes emerges as a seasoned professional with a comprehensive understanding of Information Security Management and Industrial Cybersecurity. His journey reflects a commitment to excellence, innovation, and proactive measures to address the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.