Mike Gillespie, founder of cyber consultancy Advent IM and a frequent contributor to the Computer Weekly Security Think Tank, has been named Godfather of UK Security at the annual Security Serious Unsung Heroes Awards, recognising the too-often forgotten heroes of the cyber security community, which took place in London on 18 October.
Gillespie came to cyber security in the early 2000s, after 10 years spent serving in the British Army, and set up Advent IM in 2002. An independent information security, data protection and physical security consultancy and training provider, Advent IM specialises in holistic strategies and services that enable business and manage risk.
He also serves as vice-president of the C3i Centre for Strategic Cyberspace and Security Science (CSCSS) and has acted as a cyber spokesperson for the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) and the cyber security lead for the surveillance cameras guide from the government’s surveillance camera commissioner – an area in which he is one of the country’s foremost authorities.
“I am honoured to have won the Godfather of Security Award at this year’s Security Serious Unsung Heroes Awards,” said Gillespie. “This award is a testament to the hard work, dedication and support of so many people, and I am truly grateful.
“The Unsung Hero Awards are a great showcase of the excellence within our industry, and I look forward to seeing them continue to support existing and new talent in the coming years.
“I want to acknowledge the incredible team at Advent IM that I have had the privilege to work with,” he said. “Without their unwavering commitment, support and collaboration, none of the achievements that led to this award would have been possible. Each one of the team has played an integral role in the success we celebrated at the Unsung Hero Awards.
“Receiving this award fills me with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to continue striving for excellence and to give back to the security industry that has given me so much. It reinforces my belief in the power of teamwork, persistence, and the potential for positive change in culture and business practices to ensure we keep our information safe.”
At the same time, former Crest president Ian Glover was also recognised as Highly Commended in the same category.
Glover, a lifetime technologist who became fascinated with computing at the time of the Moon landings, pioneered information security practice in the public and private sectors in the 1970s and ’80s, before setting up Crest in 2008 as part of a drive to advocate for the interests of the emerging cyber security trade.
Speaking to Computer Weekly in 2020, Glover said: “[In 2008] It was really difficult to buy good-quality [cyber] services, you had no idea who you were buying from, you didn’t really understand what it was you were buying, and there was no ability to take action should things go wrong.
“That, to me, was a big problem – the possibility of an unconstrained penetration tester doing inappropriate things or accidentally bringing the system down was quite high. So, we looked to try to professionalise the industry.”
Eight years of recognition
The awards, which are convened and run by Eskenzi PR, a specialist cyber security public relations practice, and sponsored by the likes of training firm KnowBe4 among others, are now in their eighth year, and are designed to honour people, rather than technology, according to event organiser and director Yvonne Eskenzi.
“These awards are so different from other pay-to-play industry awards – they’re all about the real people in cyber security,” she said. “The cyber professionals quietly going about their jobs, protecting our businesses and our country, and importantly, ensuring that these people are looked after and that new and diverse talent is coming up through the ranks.”
The other winners this year were:
- Cyber Writer: Michael Hill, UK editor, CSO Online;
- Best Educator: James Bore, director, Bores Group and tutor at Capslock;
- Data Guardian: Sarah Clarke, owner, Infospectives;
- CISO Supremo: Shan Lee, CISO, DocPlanner;
- Diversity Champion: Rebecca Taylor, threat intelligence knowledge manager for the Counter Threat Unit, Secureworks;
- Security Leader/Mentor: Stuart Coulson, cyber security ecosystem project manager, University of Manchester;
- Rising Star: Kieran Baumann, penetration tester, DigitalXRAID (highly commended); Elise Ghent, president, CyberWomen@Warwick and Hedvig Mareng, president CyberWomen@Coventry (joint winners);
- Cyber Security Wellbeing Advocate: Nikki Webb, global channel manager, Custodian360
- Best Security Awareness Campaign: Bank of Ireland;
- Security Avengers: National Crime Agency;
- Best Ethical Hacker/Pentester: Matt Lorentzen, principal consultant, Cyberis
“What a great event the Security Unsung Heroes Awards was this year,” said the University of Manchester’s Coulson. “There are a lot of good people out there doing amazing work and it was fabulous just to be on a list with them.
“Whether that is during my day job at the University of Manchester as part of DiSH Manchester or whether it is just generally as a friend to people who need a nudge in the right direction: my call from the stage was to the mentoring community to keep doing what you do … reach out to those nominated for an Unsung Heroes Award and get them to mentor you. You won’t regret it.”
Diversity Champion Taylor added: “I had a fabulous time at the event. I am still entirely flabbergasted to have been shortlisted, let alone to have won Diversity Champion.
“It was wonderful to meet so many inspiring individuals and to celebrate alongside them. These awards truly are special, giving a platform to so many fantastic individuals in cyber security who often go unseen and unsung.”