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Remembering Alan Paller, CIS Co-Founder and Board Member

Alan Paller, an icon of the cybersecurity industry, passed away on November 9. To call him an industry icon understates his role and his impact. He was an unstoppable force of nature, brimming with ideas, passion, and constant action. Most knew Alan as the founder of the SANS Institute, the world’s leading teacher of cybersecurity skills. His impact extended well-beyond cybersecurity. He is also widely recognized for his national leadership and advocacy for several causes dear to him, as well as his service on numerous national committees, boards and advisory councils. For every visible idea, project, or cause that Alan was part of, there are many more that he inspired, started, or led behind the scenes.

From Presidents and government leaders, to industry executives, to students, Alan was a master of “high-tech, high-touch.”  He understood and operated by a fundamental truth – that even against the most high-technology challenges, all meaningful change is driven by people – people working together towards a common vision; not by talking, but by doing. Underlying his life’s work was Alan’s ability to find, connect, and empower people with good ideas, and turn them into great people taking on audacious, grand action. Later in his career, Alan turned his considerable energy and resources towards the national cybersecurity workforce pipeline challenge, and he created numerous activities to find, teach, and equip the next generation workforce.

At the Center for Internet Security (CIS), we knew Alan as one of our Founders, a member of our Board of Directors, and a strong personal presence in any discussion about the current work and the future of CIS. In any given conversation, he could be cheerleader or critic, supporter or challenger, inspiration or designer – all in the name of challenging us to achieve his vision for CIS. In large part, our work reflects his vision, as well as his style of operation: an independent, mission-driven, nonprofit organization that gathers a large collaborative community – where collaboration means to take on real problems, produce real work, and generate measurable progress.

For all of his business and technical leadership, Alan was equally dedicated as both patriot and servant leader. His life’s work is carried on through the numerous people and programs he established and equipped for a world without him. At CIS we are proud to be part of his legacy, working with our own world-wide community to develop, share, and use proven security practices, and also helping to find and develop the generation to come.

If we said that CIS stands on the shoulders of a giant, it might be trendy and is certainly true. But we know how Alan would have reacted: “We don’t have time to admire the view, get down here and stand by my side. We’ve got work to do!”

CIS 20th anniversary video featuring Alan Paller