Blog · 24 Apr 2018

Security insider: Taking the lead in threat intelligence

Find out what it means to be a Head of Threat Intelligence and how our own, Melanie Johnstone, helps to protect us from cyber criminals.

Melanie Johnstone
Head of Threat Intelligence

Imagine working as Head of Threat Intelligence for a company that operates complex networks in 170 countries around the world.

Trust us, it’s just as daunting as it sounds. Unless, of course, you’re Melanie Johnstone…

It binds all things

So far in our blog series exploring different roles within cyber security we’ve looked at ethical hackers like Konstantinos Karagiannis, who attack organisations in order to help them build a better defence. The role of our Chief Security Officer, Les Anderson, as he discusses what it takes to secure a company the size of BT. And we’ve explored how security experts such as Amy Lemberger work as a last line of defence for our own network, as well as our customers’.

In this, the final blog in the series, we’ll explore a different security angle. One that acts almost like a glue, holding all our security efforts together. The role is Head of Threat Intelligence, and the person behind it is Melanie Johnstone.

All in a day’s work

In her role as Head of Threat Intelligence for BT globally, Melanie has a lot on her plate. She’s responsible for: cyber intelligence; retail, contact centre and network crime (the physical kind); corporate fraud; and content protection for BT sport and TV products. By anyone’s standards, that’s a lot of responsibility.

Melanie begins each day by reviewing and responding to email reports of any cyber incidents that may have happened during the night. From there she moves on to dealing with emails from our Threat Intelligence customers. This is followed by a mixture of team planning, analysing resources, developing strategies and reviewing risks. And, of course, overseeing the collection and distribution of threat intelligence, collected from our own research centres, our partners and law enforcement agencies.

Why is this all so important? Because, in Melanie’s own words, “the role of intelligence is at the heart of everything — it adds context”.

The importance of threat intelligence

It’s threat intelligence that allows us and our customers to stay one step ahead of the risk and forecast potential threats. In fact, one great example was when our threat intelligence gave our customers a six-week warning to patch the weaknesses that allowed WannaCry to happen

It’s all about experience

How did Melanie gain the skills needed to fulfil this demanding role? Well, if you read the last blog in this series then you might start to see a pattern, as — like Amy — Melanie was formerly employed by the Police. Strathclyde Police, to be exact, where she worked as an Intelligence Analyst dealing with real-time incidents involving serious and organised crime.

Her role in Strathclyde Police and her job here at BT actually have striking similarities. Both involve making rapid decisions based on real-time intelligence, and both help to protect the public.

Find out more

That brings our ‘Security insider’ series of blogs to a close. Hopefully you’ve now got a good idea of what it’s really like to work in the cyber security industry — and what calibre of people you’d have as colleagues if you did.

If you want to find out more about Melanie and her role in Threat Intelligence, make sure to watch the interview with her, below.

You can find Melanie on LinkedIn. And discover more videos about our other security experts by visiting our ‘Taking cyber security seriously’ page.

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