Building security bridges

Farhan Sahito is no stranger to security. Beginning as a police officer in 2002, Sahito worked his way through both government and private organizations, transitioning from physical to cybersecurity over the course of his decades-long career.

In this Profile in Excellence, Sahito walks through the course of his career, providing insight and advice to future security leaders.

Security: Describe your career from beginning to present-day

Sahito: My cybersecurity career commenced in Pakistan, where I completed my Masters in IT and Economics, laying the groundwork for my multifaceted expertise. I initiated my professional journey with the Pakistan police and subsequently transitioned to the National Response Center for Cybercrime in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). This phase was pivotal in establishing my foundational skills in law enforcement and cybercrime investigation.

In 2007, I broadened my academic horizon with a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Melbourne, Australia, achieved through an AusAID scholarship. This academic pursuit was crucial in deepening my understanding of cybersecurity and cybercrime, providing me with a comprehensive view of these complex fields.

Furthering my academic pursuit, I obtained a Ph.D. in cybersecurity from Graz University of Technology, Austria, with an OeAD Austria scholarship. My research focused on unraveling the intricate nature of cyber threats and exploring the interplay between technology and crime. This added a significant academic depth to my practical law enforcement experience.

My career then expanded onto the global stage with INTERPOL in France, where I collaborated with 196 member countries. I was deeply involved in shaping cybercrime policies, best practices and advancing International cybercrime investigation techniques, including state-of- the-art biometrics and speaker identification technologies. Following my tenure at INTERPOL, I served as an Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Security Council Sanctions Committee in New York.

Transitioning into the corporate sector, I joined Capgemini as Director of Cyber Innovation.

Here, I played a crucial role in establishing cybersecurity departments and led the acquisition of three major EU Commission cybersecurity projects. In 2020, I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, co-founding Privanova with my close friend and business partner, Djoirdje Djokic. We have successfully expanded our team with top-notch cybersecurity experts, legal professionals, and project managers.

Overall, my career is an intricate tapestry of academic rigor, practical law enforcement experience, global policy influence, corporate strategic leadership, and entrepreneurial drive. Each phase has been integral in shaping my comprehensive proficiency in cybersecurity, solidifying my standing as a high-level expert committed to advancing global cybersecurity initiatives.

Security: What does a typical workday look like for you?

Sahito: Morning Routine and Strategic Planning
My day usually starts with an in-depth review of our ongoing EU Commission projects. In collaboration with Djoirdje Djokic and our expert team, we meticulously align our project initiatives with the strategic goals of our organization. This process is crucial in ensuring that each project not only aligns with our overarching vision but also meets the specific requirements and objectives set forth by the EU Commission.

Mentorship and Academic Collaboration
I am deeply committed to mentorship and the professional development of upcoming cybersecurity talent. A substantial portion of my day is devoted to mentoring and co-supervising Ph.D. students who specialize in various aspects of cybersecurity. This mentorship is more than just imparting knowledge; it’s about fostering a new generation of cybersecurity experts who are equipped to tackle the challenges of an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Thought Leadership and Global Representation
My role at Privanova extends beyond internal management and delves into the realm of global thought leadership. I frequently engage in delivering keynote speeches at prestigious international platforms, including the INTERPOL Cyber Exchange Knowledge Platform and UN forums. These speaking engagements are opportunities to share our innovative approaches at Privanova and to contribute to shaping global cybersecurity policies and strategies.

Security: What’s your leadership style?

Sahito: My leadership style in the realm of cybersecurity is shaped by a vision that champions forward thinking, innovation, and global collaboration. Having led pivotal projects and diverse teams from my early days at INTERPOL and the UN to influential roles in the corporate sphere at Capgemini and Privanova, my approach is grounded in inclusivity, strategic foresight and adaptability.

I believe in leading by example, fostering a culture that values intellectual curiosity, proactive problem-solving, and uncompromising ethical standards. My extensive journey through various aspects of cybersecurity has taught me that innovative solutions are often born from diverse, collaborative environments where different perspectives converge.

Focusing on mentorship and knowledge transfer, I recognize the crucial role of nurturing emerging talent in cybersecurity. Co-supervising Ph.D. students, I commit to equipping the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with essential skills, knowledge, and a strong ethical foundation.

Security: What advice do you have for those considering the same path?

Sahito: Embrace Interdisciplinary Learning
Cybersecurity isn’t isolated; it intersects with various disciplines like law enforcement, technology, economics, and ethics. Understanding these intersections enriches your perspective and enhances your ability to address complex cyber challenges.

Engage in Continuous Learning
The cybersecurity landscape is ever-evolving. Keep yourself updated with the latest technologies, threats, and mitigation strategies. This could mean taking additional courses, attending workshops, or simply staying informed through reputable sources.

Overall, my career is an intricate tapestry of academic rigor, practical law enforcement experience, global policy influence, corporate strategic leadership, and entrepreneurial drive.”
— Farhan Sahito, Partner at Privanova

Participate in Practical Projects and Internship
Theoretical knowledge is vital, but so is practical experience. Engage in internships, participate in hackathons, or work on real-world projects. These experiences will not only solidify your understanding but also enhance your problem-solving skills.

Develop a Global Perspective
Cybersecurity is a global issue. My experience working with Privanova and international organizations like INTERPOL and the UN has highlighted the importance of understanding cybersecurity from a global standpoint. Seek opportunities for international exposure, whether through study programs, global conferences, or collaborations.

Network and Find Mentors
Building a strong network and finding mentors who can guide you through your career can make a significant difference. Engage with professionals in the field, attend industry events, and don’t hesitate to reach out to experts for advice.

Focus on Innovation
The field of cybersecurity needs innovative minds that can think ahead of cybercriminals. Always look for new ways to approach problems and don’t be afraid to propose and test novel solutions.

Remember, a career in cybersecurity is not just about protecting data; it’s about safeguarding people’s way of life in the digital world. It demands not only technical proficiency but also ethical responsibility, strategic thinking and a continual readiness to adapt and learn.

Security: Any advice for other security leaders?

Drawing from my extensive journey through various facets of cybersecurity — from public law enforcement with the Pakistan police and Federal Investigation Agency, international policy shaping at INTERPOL and the UN, to pioneering private sector innovations at Capgemini and Privanova — here are key pieces of advice I would offer to fellow security leaders:

Embrace a Multidisciplinary Approach
Cybersecurity is not a siloed field; it intersects with numerous disciplines. As leaders, we should cultivate an understanding that goes beyond technical aspects and delves into legal, ethical, and managerial territories. This broad perspective is crucial for developing comprehensive security strategies.

Foster Global and Collaborative Mindsets
In today’s interconnected world, cybersecurity challenges are global in nature. Collaborate with international bodies, participate in global forums, and learn from diverse cybersecurity practices. Building strong networks across borders can provide unique insights and create opportunities for collective action against cyber threats.

Invest in People
The core strength of any cybersecurity initiative lies in its people. Invest in nurturing talent, encouraging continuous learning, and fostering an environment where innovative ideas are welcomed. Mentorship, especially in guiding the next generation, is vital in ensuring the sustainability and evolution of the cybersecurity landscape.

Adaptability and Continuous Learning
The cybersecurity landscape is ever-evolving, with new threats and technologies emerging constantly. Stay abreast of the latest trends and innovations in the field. Adaptability not only in technological aspects but also in policy, strategy, and management is key to staying ahead in this dynamic environment.

Prioritize Ethical Responsibility
As cybersecurity leaders, we hold significant power over data protection and privacy. It’s imperative to uphold high ethical standards and ensure that our actions and policies protect and respect the privacy and rights of individuals and organizations.

Balance Strategic Vision with Practical Execution
While having a long-term strategic vision is important, equally crucial is the ability to execute plans effectively. This involves understanding the day-to-day challenges, managing resources efficiently, and ensuring that your team is aligned with the organizational goals.

Be a Champion of Security Culture
Cultivate a culture within your organization where security is everyone’s responsibility. This involves raising awareness, providing training, and ensuring that security practices are integrated into all aspects of the business process.

Lead by Example
Finally, embody the principles and practices you advocate. Authentic leadership builds credibility and trust, both within your team and in the wider cybersecurity community.

In conclusion, the role of a cybersecurity leader is multifaceted and continually evolving. It requires a blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, ethical responsibility, and a deep understanding of the global landscape. As leaders, our goal should be not only to protect against threats but also to drive the cybersecurity field forward, creating a safer digital world for future generations.