Interview with Selim Aissi, CISO & Data Security Advisory Board Member

We’re excited to interview one of our esteemed advisory board members, Selim Aissi.  He’s been a Dasera advisory board member since 2019, helping us achieve our mission to reinvent data security for the way cloud-first organizations use data.

Q1. Tell us about yourself and your outlook on security 

At the University of Michigan, I obtained my Bachelors, Masters and Phd in Engineering. After college, I joined General Dynamics (a Department of Defense contractor) working on Safety-Critical Embedded Software.  In this environment, systems were secure and integrated from the get-go.  It was a great introduction to security and paved the way for me to learn how critical it was for national security.  In other industries at the time, security was an afterthought.   

Q2. How did you become a leading security innovator?       

My 11 years at Intel were solely focused on building innovative security products.  As Chief Security Architect and Chief Security Strategist, I was part of several innovation labs spanning mobile to data center.  During my tenure, I filed over 100 security-related patents -- virtually everything that we built, we obtained a patent.  The race to develop innovative ways to effectively secure products, platforms, and infrastructures became increasingly competitive.  It was a reflection of how fast the threat landscape was evolving. With mankind in a race to digitize every aspect of their operations, security became a fundamental issue, and I was on the forefront of that war. It was both exciting and rewarding work. 

Q3. Where do you learn to lead a team tasked with protecting data globally and at scale?   

One third of the United States’ GDP flows through the Visa network, making their infrastructure as critical to secure as the national grid.  Both networks are big targets for sophisticated, more frequent attacks due to the large financial gains cyber attackers can reap. Imagine how much data flows through that network, and likewise, how difficult it is to manage and secure that data worldwide. As one of the first hires of the security leadership team at Visa as the VP of Information Security, it was critical that we implemented the right controls to mitigate these attacks. With a growing need to secure this data, it was a priority for our team to expand internationally and protect this financial data at scale. 

The journey to build Visa’s first consumer-facing products with security as the foundation led to the successful development and deployment of and ApplePay.

Q4. What was your journey like at Ellie Mae?

When Ellie Mae went public, they were looking for their first official CISO. During my 6-year tenure there as CISO, we had phenomenal growth, we acquired several companies under our umbrella, and built a world-class security team. This incredible journey of growth led us to get acquired twice, first for $3B and then for $11B. 

Q5. How did you become associated with Dasera?

At Visa, I was responsible for the security of all data, and at Ellie Mae, I had to ensure that all personal data and instances of data sharing had the proper governance, security, and privacy controls in place. These are all common threads and challenges to what Dasera is solving for now.

Q6. What in Dasera’s vision stands out for you?

It’s not just Dasera’s technology, but their people and leadership.  Their shared passion and vision for data empowerment is contagious. They’re looking holistically at how to protect the entire data lifecycle from creation to deletion rather than solving a small piece of the puzzle. These are areas typically ignored by other vendors.  The lifecycle is complex and extremely dynamic. Securing it solves a real, ugly problem that many organizations face today. 

Q7. You have been associated with building the Dasera platform, first as an advisor and then as an investor. How would you pitch Dasera to your peers?

The fact that most CISOs, CIOs, and CDOs find it difficult to know where their data is today, especially when it comes to their crown jewels, means there’s something missing in security and data privacy. Existing tools aren’t working. It’s critical to know where sensitive data lives in your infrastructure at all times, especially in the cloud where the perimeter no longer exists. Dasera can help protect the entire cloud data lifecycle, from creation to deletion, so that all PII can be easily identified and protected at all times. 

Q8. Any predictions for 2022 and beyond?

I predict that there will be additional flavors of extortion. Data theft is bound to become more prevalent and dangerous as cyber criminals plan smarter, more sophisticated ways to exploit PII for financial gain. 

Q9. May we get a quote from you?

“Lots of CISOs are worried about privacy and data breaches. But none are equipped with the means to fully protect their data in this day and age of digital transformation. I challenge all companies to rethink their approach to protecting sensitive data, especially in this new, cloud-first world.” 


Erin Swanson