Meet the Cybersecurity Defender of 2024 for EMEA

Every year, Cisco selects leaders who exemplify the passion, tenacity, and knowledge required to be a cybersecurity defender. We are delighted to announce the Cybersecurity Defender of 2024 for the EMEA region: Stuart Perkins, Operations Leader for the Cyber Prevents team at Vodafone.

From Networks to Cybersecurity

A graduate of London University, Stuart’s career began at the Royal Air Force as an Engineering Officer. After serving, Stuart moved to the private sector, where he specialized in managing different technologies and technical teams. At Vodafone, a leading telecommunications company headquartered in the United Kingdom, Stuart is responsible for the Network and Telco Platforms that provide protection on the perimeter of the Vodafone estate. Stuart leads a team of 100 employees across Europe and India and is the lead for Operational Best Practice across the Cyber Prevent team.

“You’re on the side of doing the right thing.”
– Stuart Perkins.

With a background in building and configuring networks and understanding and securing those networks, Stuart has been fascinated by exploring the huge amount of data available in cybersecurity. Finding out more about threat actors and what they’re doing through the multiple tools he uses, piques Stuart’s interest. However, what matters most to Stuart about cybersecurity is that “you’re on the side of doing the right thing, making a difference, and preventing people with malevolent intent from being successful,” he said.

The network never lies.

Stuart is dedicated to adding value and improving experiences for colleagues and customers who rely on Vodafone to conduct business securely. Stuart’s team manages to secure tens of thousands of devices internally and many thousand devices within their enterprise space. Given that Vodafone is thwarting tens to hundreds of millions of threats depending on the day, Stuart is energized by his collaboration with Cisco and being able to analyze data to get detailed insight into threat actors.

“Using the MITRE attack Framework, we’ve actually been able to map from Cisco’s intelligence what those various attacks are attempting to do and where they fit into the framework,” he said. Stuart finds this work “unique and groundbreaking” for both Vodafone and Cisco in that “we’re using the perimeter of our infrastructure as a sensor to understand what people are trying to do against us and what their objectives are and start to look at areas where we need to bolster the defenses.”

Given Stuart’s network background, what excites him about partnering with Cisco is Cisco’s history of network capability. In a recent call with Cisco colleagues, an idea that particularly struck Stuart was that the network never lies. “Cisco is giving me insight to see the traffic flows across our infrastructure. Using the MITRE mapping helps us quickly assess and act on any alerts, whilst our blocking actions are great, we know that some cyber attacks will be successful. Our mission is to protect customers, colleagues, and society from this type of criminal activity,” he said.

Stuart’s commitment to infrastructure security is reflected in Vodafone’s use of the MITRE ATT&CK framework and Cisco Security solutions. By leveraging these tools, Vodafone is able to block tens of millions of malicious attempts on a daily basis. This level of security effectiveness protects Vodafone’s systems and enhances the customer experience by ensuring that issues are dealt with promptly.

Empowering the next generation of cybersecurity defenders

Stuart’s passion for his work extends to empowering his team members to become the next generation of cybersecurity defenders. As there is a significant cohort of early-in-career contributors starting their careers at Vodafone, it’s crucial to Stuart that his employees have ample training opportunities and interesting things to work on in both network tooling and reporting. The team is also excited about an upcoming Cyber Range training with Cisco Talos’s Threat Intelligence team.

Something Stuart is proudest of is the transformation of his team becoming more proactive about their platforms and more curious about the information gleaned from alerts. This focus and collaboration have led to less time on calls because of the team’s due diligence.

The team of colleagues at Vodafone who have worked closely with Stuart are so proud of this achievement, they think it’s very well deserved. His mission focus and the experience he uses to coach others are so important to us.

Congratulations, Stuart! We all benefit from your contributions to the field.

Passionate about cybersecurity?

If you, too, are making a difference in cybersecurity with Cisco, be considered for our next Cybersecurity Defender of the Year award.

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