Former CISA director Chris Krebs accepts the Eagle Award at the 2021 Federal 100 gala

Federal 100’s cybersecurity standouts

One hundred exceptional members of the federal IT community were celebrated at the annual Federal 100 Awards gala on Aug. 27.

Now in its 32nd year, the awards program remains the most prestigious award in federal IT and honors individuals who go far beyond their assigned duties to show how technology can be leveraged to make government run better. Many of this year’s winners were chosen for their work securing the federal government’s IT systems against bad actors looking to take advantage of the chaos caused by the pandemic and election misinformation.

Of the honorees, Christopher Krebs, the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was given the Eagle Award to acknowledge his work standing up the new agency and protecting the 2020 elections.

As the first leader of CISA -- he took over the National Protection and Programs Directorate on an acting basis in August 2017, and pushed hard for NPPD's promotion to a true agency -- Krebs spent 2020 working furiously to ensure the integrity of our elections, while also ensuring that ransomware, software supply-chain vulnerabilities and a range of other rapidly escalating risks didn't cripple government operations or the nation's critical infrastructure. CISA's Rumor Control website was an essential tool for debunking disinformation about the 2020 elections, and an important step in CISA's increasingly public-facing role. Less visible, but equally valuable, were CISA's many initiatives to better support state and local governments and to provide federal agencies with the tools they need to monitor and defend their systems.

Although he was fired by President Donald Trump after stating that the 2020 elections were "the most secure in American history," Krebs has remained an active contributor in the ongoing discussions about how best to secure the most critical assets of the public and private sectors alike. He continues to speak publicly about security risks and the dangers of disinformation and frequently consults with both administration officials and members of Congress behind the scenes.

When Trump's tweet came down last November, Krebs responded with one of his own, declaring: "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow." Those 11 words aptly describe an essential year of protecting both government and democracy.

Other cybersecurity standouts among the Federal 100 include:

Katie Arrington, Chief Information Security Officer for Acquisition and Sustainment, Defense Department
Arrington championed DOD’s adoption of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, the unified cybersecurity standard for defense contractors. 

Branko Bokan, Cybersecurity Directives Program Lead, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security
After Russian intelligence agents breached federal networks via SolarWinds’ software platform, Bokan worked with dozens of agencies to ensure they were able to meet the requirements of CISA’s emergency directive regarding the hack.

Steven Hernandez, Chief Information Security Officer, Education Department
Hernandez has been an influential figure across government, driving improvements in cybersecurity and being an early advocate and thought leader for zero-trust architecture.

Nathan Jones, Vice President, Federal, Red Hat
Jones and his team focused on improving agencies’ cybersecurity postures and helping them accelerate development through DevSecOps. A partnership with Raytheon on a DevSecOps solution now allows agencies to develop apps at an unclassified level and deploy them into classified environments.

Wanda Jones-Heath, Principal Cyber Advisor and Chief Information Security Officer, Department of the Air Force
Jones-Heath played a leadership role in the fast, secure transition of Air Force personnel to mass telework and coordinated with the cyber and information warfare arm of the service to ensure that the Air Force enterprise remains proactive on cybersecurity.

Brad Medairy, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
Medairy created Dark Labs, an elite team that blends cyber offense and defense into new solutions, and in 2020, his team was on the front lines of securing health IT vulnerabilities that arose during the pandemic.

Laurence “Larry” Nichols III, Digital Forensics Investigator and Cybersecurity Engineer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
To defend the lab’s work on pandemic response from cyber attackers, Nichols focused on creating new baselines, recalibrating the threat and risk environment and protecting new endpoints as lab employees shifted to remote work and many operations moved to the cloud.

Victoria Yan Pillitteri, Computer Scientist and FISMA Project Leader, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Pillitteri’s leadership, technical excellence and superior coordination of a multi-agency team of cybersecurity and privacy professionals resulted in a critical update to NIST’s flagship cybersecurity guide, Special Publication 800-53.

Jim Richberg, Public Sector Field CISO, Fortinet Federal
Richberg spent 2020 helping government and its private-sector partners address critical problems that ranged from improving election security, coping with the security and IT challenges posed by the pandemic and accelerating digital transformation.

Kiersten Todt, Managing Director, Cyber Readiness Institute
Todt’s work with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on the Telework Essentials Toolkit and the Ransomware Playbook empowered tens of thousands of executive leaders, IT professionals and teleworkers to minimize the risks that arose during the rapid, unplanned move to remote work.

Click here for the full list of 2021 Federal 100 winners.

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