Cybercrime , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Next-Generation Technologies & Secure Development

During a War, Cyber Intel Firm Opens Ukraine Office

Alex Holden Planned a Ukraine Office. Russia Invaded. He Opened It Anyway.
Alex Holden, CISO and founder, Hold Security

Last November, Alex Holden returned to Ukraine for the first time in 35 years.

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Holden is CISO and founder of Hold Security, a Wisconsin-based cyber intelligence firm. He grew up in Ukraine but left with his parents not long after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. He first stayed in Moldova and then moved to the state of Wisconsin in 1989.

His visit to Ukraine last year was part of a plan to open an office in Kyiv, as the country has much computer security research talent. But just three months later, Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. Holden had already picked a person to head up the office, and she called him.

"This person called me and she said, 'Well, are we gonna do this or not?'" Holden says. "Less than 200 hours since the beginning of the war, we made a very simple decision and said, 'Hey, we're going to do it.'"

Hold Security has hired more than 20 Ukrainians to work in threat intelligence and software development, providing jobs for people at a critical time. Some are working at Hold Security's European headquarters in the Czech Republic, while others are in Kyiv.

"We found a lot of great people who did not have the abilities to go and pick up a gun and fight for the country," Holden says. "But they have the ability to do this in cyberspace - to defend their country, defend them against cybercrime, defend the community. Russia is not only attacking Ukraine today; it's attacking the world in cyberattacks of unimaginable proportion."

In this video interview with Information Security Media Group, Holden discusses:

  • How Ukraine’s approach to fighting cybercrime has changed;
  • What challenges Hold Security faced in hiring employees in a time of war;
  • How Hold Security is training new Ukrainian intelligence analysts.

Holden is the CISO and founder of Hold Security, which specializes in threat intelligence, risk management, penetration testing and incident response. He has uncovered some of the biggest data breaches over the last decade, including Adobe Systems, JPMorgan and Target.

About the Author

Jeremy Kirk

Jeremy Kirk

Executive Editor, Security and Technology, ISMG

Kirk was executive editor for security and technology for Information Security Media Group. Reporting from Sydney, Australia, he created "The Ransomware Files" podcast, which tells the harrowing stories of IT pros who have fought back against ransomware.

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