At 41 years young, Tin Nguyen has already led an illustrious career spanning two continents. His professional journey has taken Tin from the United States Marines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to co-founding an international education technology company to the helm of a Vietnam-based cybersecurity company Polaris Infosec. Tin’s resume also includes leading the response and recovery efforts for one of the greatest crypto hacks in history – the Axie Infinity blockchain game.
Tin is a graduate of the SANS Technology Institute’s undergraduate certificate program in Applied Cybersecurity, who completed the program in eight months while working full time. Here, he talks to us about his experience with the SANS.edu Applied Cybersecurity Certificate program and offers advice to those considering a similar path.
Q. How did you get interested in cybersecurity?
A. I was first introduced to cybersecurity when I was working for the FBI. I wasn’t a cyber agent specifically; however, many of the cases I worked on did require cyber investigation techniques and I was trained to do things such as mobile forensics and digital evidence recovery. I was with the FBI for almost eight years before leaving to co-found an education tech company in Vietnam and then pivoting to cybersecurity which is an emerging industry in Vietnam. Here, I knew I could make a profound impact.
Q. Prior to attending the SANS Technology Institute, what was your educational background?
A. I graduated from The Citadel with an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice. I also attended Georgetown University’s Cybersecurity Risk Management graduate program.
Q. What is your current position?
A. I am a co-founder and CEO of Polaris Infosec. Polaris is based in Vietnam and offers advanced threat protection using sophisticated AI and machine learning to automate web application protection and identify malicious attacks before they gain access to a company’s network. Immediately prior to joining Polaris, I was Vice President of Operations at a digital forensics and incident response firm based out of Singapore.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your role in responding to the Axie Infinity blockchain attack?
A. The Axie Infinity hack occurred back in March 2022. Hackers stole cryptocurrency worth over $625 million from players of Axie Infinity, a popular online blockchain game developed by Sky Mavis. The day of its occurrence, I was called in to lead the response and recovery efforts. I coordinated efforts of the technical teams across investors and cybersecurity firms as well as Sky Mavis’ internal security team. I also organized governmental law enforcement agencies’ involvement, including the FBI, and Vietnamese and European law enforcement and ultimately streamlined their operational and informational security, assisting them to develop an in-depth investigation plan and recovery roadmap. My team is still currently assisting them with recovery efforts.
Q. Why did you choose to enroll in SANS.edu? How did SANS stand out from other programs?
A. I spent a great deal of time evaluating my different options as the cybersecurity community is influenced heavily by your formal education and certifications. SANS.edu offered a much more technical, hands-on approach when compared to other programs. SANS was well structured, and the teaching staff were professionals who could provide real-world knowledge. SANS also offered well-respected industry certifications. I wanted to make a hard pivot in my career and SANS seemed to offer what I needed – a program built on clear objectives and a roadmap from A to Z of what I needed to do to get my new career started.
I went to Georgetown University after completing my SANS education for their graduate Cybersecurity Risk Management program. Georgetown is much more policy based. The programs are vastly different but complement each other very well. SANS.edu gave me in-depth technical knowledge and allowed me to get my hands dirty behind the machine. Building off that, Georgetown prepared me to master the skills needed to develop and implement risk governance frameworks and policies to increase resiliency across an organization.
Q. How did you fund the SANS Applied Cybersecurity certificate program?
A. As a former infantry officer in the United States Marines I was able to fund the SANS.edu program through the Post 9-11 GI Bill.
Q. What did you find most valuable about the program?
A. For me, the in-depth technical knowledge and confidence that SANS gave me was most valuable. SANS gave me the working knowledge and the skills to make a career pivot very quickly.
Q. Did you take classes online or at live events?
A. SANS.edu is ideal for those working full time, which I was. I took classes online, which I really enjoyed. All classes were pre-recorded, and all materials were shipped directly to me. I could take my time and go through the materials at my own pace.
Q. How has your SANS.edu certification impacted your career trajectory?
A. My SANS certification gave me a foot in the door. A SANS education inspires confidence. It tells employers that this person has what it takes to do the job. Ultimately, I was able to demonstrate my hard skills and manage, grow, and lead programs.
Q. What advice would you offer someone considering applying to the SANS Technology Institute?
A. I’ve had a few people apply to SANS.edu based on my recommendation. If you are looking for a program that is structured, has a clear road map, and can help you to quickly jump into an industry that is exploding, I would say that SANS is a must do.
Q. What’s next for Tin Nguyen?
A. I am focused on growing Polaris Infosec and finding opportunities to build my team and grow our capacity in Southeast Asia, and eventually globally.
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