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Meet ICS Fellow Paul Gillen

Paul joined Barclays in 2015, and is Chief Information Security officer for Barclays Europe, Managing Director of Security Operations and a Director of the Cyber Defence Alliance in the City of London. Paul has been working in the area of Cyber and Fraud since 1996. 

Paul reflects on his career and the technology changes he’s seen during his tenure. “Looking back, I’ve had an interesting and varied career that has led me to this point. I have worked in cyber in its many forms since 1996, I started out as the founder of the Garda ‘computer crime unit’, where we’d carry out computer forensics on systems seized to present as evidence in court. Now, my mobile phone has more processing power than some of the old mainframe computers seen then. Cyber-attacks and cyber facilitated fraud is now mainstream and the job of securing our networks is a global industry” said Gillen.

His extensive experience has seen him head up the computer crime unit at the Garda Síochána (Irish Police Service). He was also Head of Operations at the European Cybercrime Centre in Europol in The Hague. He is a co-founder of the University College Dublin, Centre for Cyber Security and Cybercrime Investigation and founder of the European Commission funded European Cybercrime Training and Education Group (ECTEG).

Gillen was also founding Vice-Chair of the European Union Cybercrime Task Force (EUCTF), a strategic group made up of all the Heads of Federal Police Cybercrime Units across the European Union. He helped coordinate the European police agency (Europol) efforts to how Europe should set itself up to tackle Cyber from a law enforcement perspective.

The role of technology in cybercrime

Talking about technology, Gillen says: “The internet has changed many things for the better – such as the speed and accessibility of information, services and communications. During the recent pandemic, we’ve shown we can keep the bank running globally 24/7/365 from home with the help of technology. At the same time, the recent rise in ransomware and data breaches shows that technology is widely abused by criminals.

“This significant shift in technology has led Barclays to setting up a sophisticated specialised cyber security department. Our role is to defend the bank and our customers from criminal activity and my teams are responsible for coordinating our response to all serious incidents via our global suite of Joint Operations Centres (JOC).” says Gillen.

“I’m very proud of the capability of the teams at Barclays over last five years to achieve an accolade of being an intelligence-driven defence organisation. It’s been a challenging, yet rewarding, journey to substantially uplift our cyber security capability and transform it into a world-class security centre.”

Mentoring and networking

On reflecting on this career, Gillen notes that nothing can be achieved in isolation. “During my career, I’ve developed a keen sense of fostering a collaborative approach amongst teams. From law enforcement to academia and now into Barclays, it’s important to bring people on the journey, fostering relationships and managing stakeholders effectively in pursuit of the common goal has been important to me throughout”.

“For people who are on a journey now, I’d recommend getting a mentor. Pick someone you know and respect, and has lots of experience. I enjoy spending time with people starting out in their career who have potential to show them where I struggled and I try to guide them on their journey. 

“Have a blueprint for what you want to achieve and set 90 day objectives and review your progress monthly with a mentor or line manager. In your blueprint, identify your most valuable assets and defend them above all. It was Frederick the great that said: “he who defends everything defends nothing.” Know what it is you’re going to defend and do it really well. Stay connected with peers in the industry and make sure you’re fully immersed in your sphere.”

Diversity in the workplace

As a final note on a career in cyber, Gillen discusses the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “I’m the Chair of the CSO Diversity and Inclusion Council where we are focused on the delivery of a diverse workforce in CSO. We work with Cyber Defence Alliance (CDA), which includes several global banks, to help encourage more women into a career of cyber security across all the countries where CDA members have a foothold. The initiative involves talking in schools and colleges about cyber and security as a career path at a time when young women are making career choices, choosing subjects, looking at apprenticeships or graduate schemes. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress we make to improve the diversity in our sector.”

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