Famed federal cybersecurity chief Christopher Krebs explains why $7 billion startup SentinelOne is so special he joined as an advisor

  • Christopher Krebs, the top US cybersecurity official fired by Trump has joined SentinelOne’s board.
  • Krebs told Insider in an interview that AI and automation stand the best chance to stop ransomware.
  • Krebs, whose hair has been a social media meme, joked haircare endorsements are also possible.  
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Artificial intelligence will be the weapon that allows the world to finally, successfully fight

, Christopher Krebs, the US cybersecurity chief famously fired by former President Trump, told Insider on Wednesday.

“Companies are trying to do battle with criminal networks that frankly often outstrip the ability of a technical staff. AI and automation are probably the easiest path to success for most organizations,” Krebs told Insider in an interview. “And not just small and medium businesses, but federal government agencies with massive estates.” 

Krebs says that’s why he’s joining SentinelOne’s advisory board as its first member. The 8-year-old, 900-person startup, valued at $7 billion, announced his appointment on Wednesday.

SentinelOne is one of the big industry players in an area known as extended detection and response (XDR). XDR collects data from across the web to identify hard-to-detect security threats, then uses AI to quickly automate responses when a breach is detected. “When you look at where the market’s going, it’s all cloud-based, and that’s where SentinelOne already is,” Krebs said.

Krebs told Insider he pursued AI and automated solutions as the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a job he was famously fired from by former President Donald Trump after CISA’s work to protect the 2020 presidential election from cyberattack.

“Some of the election security work we were doing towards the end included sponsoring a pilot,” Krebs said, “and trying to get it into as many jurisdictions as possible.” 

While better tech may be necessary to fight ransomware, Krebs said government has a role, too, in deterring companies from paying up. Ransomware, a runaway crime for years, locks computer systems until businesses pay organized gangs for the decryption key to free their data. It will cost the world an estimated $20 billion this year, according to the cybersecurity news outlet Cybersecurity Ventures. 

“Every payment validates the business model of the bad actors. They’re going to go hire more developers. It’s professionalizing a criminal enterprise. Sooner rather than later there may come a time when it is incredibly difficult to pay without violating or breaking some other law,” Krebs said.

But he also said federal agencies and the cybersecurity industry should do a better job of working together. That sentiment “makes everybody’s eyes roll, but it’s just the truth. We just all need to coordinate better,” he said. 

He pointed to the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack where the company chose to pay, leaving CISA out of its decision. Krebs said that was an issue of “the plumbing behind the curtain in the federal government” referring to the maze agencies.

This is the first time he agreed to work with a company since leaving CISA. “I said no and kept at arms-length every organization that did approach me. But after sorting out the market and SentinelOne’s approach, I realized it was a good opportunity.”

However he did joke that he would consider doing endorsements for hair-care products after his auburn locks became a political meme with everyone including his wife on Twitter. “What a great idea,” Krebs said when asked about the possibility. “I should look into that.”

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