Ryan Van Den Heuvel

Ryan Van Den Heuvel

Graduate Certificate in Industrial Control Systems Security

Graduate Certificate in Cyber Defense Operations

Ryan Van Den Heuvel spent much of his career in Red Teaming and penetration testing roles within traditional enterprise IT environments. Over time, the repetitive nature of his assessments and the persistence of recurring security issues drove him to seek new challenges in the cybersecurity domain.

This pursuit led him to explore cybersecurity in industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT). Transitioning into consulting and R&D in these areas, Ryan discovered a new passion.

Currently, an ICS/OT Cyber Security Researcher at the Idaho National Laboratory, Ryan earned Graduate Certificates in Industrial Control Systems Security and Cyber Defense Operations from the SANS Technology Institute. His outstanding performance in the ISC field was recognized with the Assante Scholar Award, named after the pioneering ISC educator Mike Assante. Here, Ryan shares his journey and provides valuable insights for those considering a similar career path.

“Working in ICS security often requires thinking outside the box to develop new solutions or re-implement existing ones in new and innovative ways. I like the challenges associated with that.”

Q. What’s your current job and what does it entail?

A. I am an ICS/OT Cyber Security Researcher at the Idaho National Laboratory.  In this role I research and develop novel concepts and solutions to cyber security problems in the ICS/OT domain with the primary goal of protecting and defending critical infrastructure. 

Q. What do you like most about working in the field of industrial control system security?

A. Every day I get to observe and learn how the cyber world interacts with the physical world via cyber-physical systems, and I find it fascinating.  As I transitioned from IT security to ICS/OT security, I learned early on that many tried-and-true solutions for securing systems or reducing risk in the IT space often have limited utility or are just not practical in the ICS/OT environment. Working in ICS security often requires thinking outside the box to develop new solutions or re-implement existing ones in new and innovative ways. I like the challenges associated with that.

Q. What was your educational background prior to attending SANS.edu?

A. I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from Michigan Tech in 2006 and earned a M.S. in Computer Security from Eastern Michigan University in 2012.

Q. Why did you choose to enroll in the SANS.edu graduate certificate program in Industrial Control System Security?

A. Although I had many years of experience in IT security, my knowledge and experience of control system and operational technology environments was nonexistent.  I decided that in order for me succeed in this new career path and make a difference, I would need to gain and develop essential, foundational knowledge to build upon.  I have taken numerous SANS courses throughout my career and have always been impressed with the equality of training provided.  When I saw that SANS.edu had an Industrial Control Systems Security graduate certificate program that would help me acquire the knowledge and understanding I was looking for, I felt it would be a natural fit for me and I enrolled.

Q. How has your SANS.edu experience impacted your career trajectory?

A. My SANS experience has given me broad foundational knowledge in the ICS security world and has helped to diversify my skillsets.  It has also given me the opportunity to meet and interact with industry peers and instructors and has allowed me to mature and grow my professional network.

 Q. What does winning the Assante Scholar Award mean to you?

A. It is humbling.  Although I never had the opportunity to know Mike, as an INL employee, I have many co-workers who knew Mike both professionally and personally and his legacy at INL is substantial.  I consider myself privileged to be able to learn from his peers, continue down the path he started and to work and solve the same types of problems he did then, today.  To win an award in his honor is icing on the cake.

Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to SANS Technology Institute?

A. Go for it! SANS.edu has many diverse offerings. It doesn’t matter if you are new to cyber security and looking to develop a solid foundation or if you are an experienced professional looking to broaden your knowledge or skills in a new domain, SANS has a program for you.  Do your research and take the time to explore the different programs and course offerings to discover those that meet your own interests and goals.  Once you start, be sure to put in the effort and apply yourself, stay disciplined and you’ll succeed.  All the hard work will be worth it in the end!

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