Simon Vernon

Simon Vernon brings more than a quarter century of experience to his role as Head of Research and Development for SANS Institute where he is responsible for the creation and operations of all Jupiter Rockets, BootUP, and Community Cyber Ranges. He is the CSO for Intelligence Hosting Solutions and on the board of two businesses to support security and infrastructure design decision making. Simon can be found teaching SEC488: Cloud Security Essentials.

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Developing the Jupiter Rockets Ranges and the underlying infrastructure all based in public cloud allows Simon the privilege of trying out new defensive and offensive technologies and techniques in controlled environments. He and his team utilize the latest technologies to create realistic simulations of what practitioners see in real life without the pressures of working in a production asset. They then open the environments to attackers and defenders, which tests the platforms and infrastructure to destruction. As students get better, Simon learns from them, honing his own skills, while making Jupiter Rockets Ranges even more challenging.

As a self-proclaimed constant learner, Simon thrives off constant change, adaptation, and innovation through hands-on “doing”. He likes to break things to try to fix them while implementing new ideas and improvements along the way. Since getting his first PC in the late 1980’s, computers have always held Simon’s interest, but at that time, with limited opportunities in computer science, Simon focused on electrical and mechanical engineering. Simon became a specialist in auto electronics with Land Rover and the defacto IT support at work and home. In time, this experience led to his first position in commercial IT.

Simon has vast experience throughout his career, including discovering full remote execution vulnerabilities, MITM attack vectors from major vendors, appeared on TV, and has traveled and met dignitaries around the world. In 2015, Simon attended SANS Cyber Academy, which was the beginning of his journey to becoming a SANS Instructor. Although he had previously instructed at several colleges and employers over the years, he felt the impact he could have as a SANS instructor was palpable. He believes people learn best by doing once they also understand “the why”. His decades of experience put him in an excellent position to share the why and help his students grow through practical and real-world examples.

Simon keeps ahead of the curve in security and believes the cloud this is the only way to survive and prosper in today’s environment. The rapid pace of innovation and adoption of new technologies in the cloud space has proved a perfect fit for Simon’s constant need to learn new things. Some prefer the ease of locking onto a particular vendor or platform and maintaining a status quo, but that is not the road Simon takes. He constantly pivots, tries new things, breaks things, adapts, and continually improves. Moving from an on-premise mindset into the cloud includes many radical architectural and conventional changes. It could be likened to moving from Windows to Mac or changing from driving a car to riding a motorcycle. The outcome is the same, but the method to achieve it securely is very different. Re-learning common techniques in a very different environment can be challenging. Simon is here to help you on your journey.

Simon holds several positions outside of SANS including: a CSO for a data center company, Board Member of two individual businesses for security and infrastructure decision making, and he is a consultant to a number of non-profits. He also holds numerous professional certifications: GPEN, GCFE, GCIH, GSEC, MCITP, and MCP.

When not behind a computer screen, Simon can be found adventuring with his family in his recently self-converted minibus-to-campervan, motorcycling, modifying admiring cars, engines, and auto technologies, or on his way to the mountains to rock climb, ski, and snowboard.