Leadership Spotlight Q&A

by | February 29, 2024

All Things Cyber with Amy De Salvatore!

Amy De Salvatore is a leading cybersecurity expert and Partner with NightDragon, an investment and advisory firm focused on investing in growth and late-stage companies within the cybersecurity, safety, security, and privacy industry.

Q: What are the top three technology areas you are focusing on at the moment, and why?

A: My favorite question! I have two areas that I’m currently researching and passionate about. First up is Cyber-Physical Security and Systems Convergence! Cyber/physical systems and security are increasingly important in today’s interconnected world. Events in the cyber world are now traversing to the physical world (and vice versa) at an alarming rate which poses severe threats and can lead to serious ramifications consequences. We view this convergence of worlds as an existential threat that necessitates new and innovative technology to mitigate. The proliferation of devices like smartphones, wearable technologies, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices means that more aspects of daily life and critical infrastructure are controlled by computer-based systems. This integration brings tremendous benefits in efficiency, convenience, and capabilities across various sectors including healthcare, transportation, and energy. However, this interconnectedness also introduces significant vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity threats can now have direct physical consequences, such as the shutdown of critical infrastructure, compromising of personal safety, and interference with essential services. The complexity of CPS systems makes them challenging to secure, necessitating advanced security measures and innovative technologies to protect against both traditional cyber threats and those unique to the physical components of these systems. As such, the focus on CPS and security is crucial for ensuring the reliability, safety, and resilience of modern infrastructure and devices, making it a key area ripe for investment and innovation to safeguard our digital and physical worlds.

The second area we’re watching intently is AI Security.  With increased adoption of LLMs across enterprises of all sizes, security professionals are looking for ways to manage emerging AI risks effectively, particularly to calm data privacy, sensitive data leakage, and model robustness concerns. With new adversarial attack vectors, we believe that there will be accelerated commercialization of solutions that are focused on protecting ML models from development and through deployment. Training Data Security and Privacy Tools are currently top of mind for proactive CISOs looking to maintain compliance in highly regulated industries (e.g. healthcare and financial services), while also staying ahead of nation-states or hacker groups trying to operationalize attacks against AI and LLMs. Longer term, NightDragon envisions adoption of pre-production model vulnerability testing and post-production monitoring tools (married with threat intelligence tools) that will improve model accuracy, reduce model bias, and secure responsible AI usage. We are actively looking at new companies in this space and hope to make an investment soon!

Q: Why did you join the Night Dragon Team?

A:  Having spent decades in the cybersecurity working for large public companies and startups, I found myself contemplating my next move after a company I’d helped to take public was acquired by private equity (note: not a fun experience).  I never imagined joining a Venture Capital firm but it turned out someone I had worked with for many years – Dave DeWalt (former CEO and Chairman of McAfee, FireEye and Mandiant) – was about to embark on a new venture and needed someone to run the platform and business development efforts for the firm.  Trusting in Dave’s vision, I decided to make the jump to a new world.

NightDragon is not your average venture capital firm.  One of only a few late-stage, pure-play cybersecurity investors, the companies in our portfolio have an established product/ market fit and are primed to adopt scalable business models.  We work with the brightest minds in cyber to innovate and meet the demands of the offensive threat landscape by scaling up the emerging technology companies in our portfolio to provide the most formidable commercial defenses the industry has to offer. Being a Partner in this firm, I see from every angle and can flex my creativity through forming go-to-market, DEI and talent partnerships that serve the interest of our companies and the greater industry.  The best careers are those where your personal mission is fused into your daily work.  My passion for partnering, making the world a safe place and supporting underserved communities is fully realized in this role, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Q: What was the biggest influencer in developing your career in IT and cybersecurity?

A: I found a new purpose in life when I made the decision to leave my comfortable job at EMC in the 2000s to join McAfee/ Intel Security and enter the world of cybersecurity. It was in this experience that I was introduced to a world of meaning in my professional life that had been missing from all the years before. At first, it was just words – “we’re defending against our adversaries”, “we’re saving lives”; “we’re improving national security”- but over the course of the next decade in cyber I came to realize that I really was contributing to a higher purpose and in a position in which I was helping the industry and society, but also helping through contributing to a bold and deeply meaningful mission.  I became enthralled with cyber and the mission behind it, and similar to my work I do to support animals in need, my purpose in life felt more profound.  From this point forward I was hooked on cyber and now very much feel I am part of something bigger, something more important, and work must be done by me to make society and the world a better and safer place.

Amy De Salvatore is a leading expert in the field of cybersecurity whose influence spans across leading global IT and cybersecurity companies including Documentum, EMC, McAfee, Intel Security and Forescout Technologies. Recognized in the industry for architecting and monetizing profitable partner ecosystems, Amy specializes in the design and execution of go-to-market strategies that lead to material impact. Amy graduated from University of San Diego summa cum laude, with a degree in Media Communications and a Business Minor. She was a former ambassador of the Forescout Women’s Network and is still passionately involved in workplace diversity programs.

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