AWS Security Blog

AWS Security Profile: Chris Betz, CISO of AWS

In the AWS Security Profile series, we feature the people who work in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Security and help keep our customers safe and secure. This interview is with Chris Betz, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), who began his role as CISO of AWS in August of 2023.

How did you get started in security? What prompted you to pursue this field?

I’ve always had a passion for technology, and for keeping people out of harm’s way. When I found computer science and security in the Air Force, this world opened up to me that let me help others, be a part of building amazing solutions, and engage my competitive spirit. Security has the challenges of the ultimate chess game, though with real and impactful consequences. I want to build reliable, massively scaled systems that protect people from malicious actors. This is really hard to do and a huge challenge I undertake every day. It’s an amazing team effort that brings together the smartest folks that I know, competing with threat actors.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

One of the most exciting things about my role is that I get to work with some of the smartest people in the field of security, people who inspire, challenge, and teach me something new every day. It’s exhilarating to work together to make a significant difference in the lives of people all around the world, who trust us at AWS to keep their information secure. Security is constantly changing, we get to learn, adapt, and get better every single day. I get to spend my time helping to build a team and culture that customers can depend on, and I’m constantly impressed and amazed at the caliber of the folks I get work with here.

How does being a former customer influence your role as AWS CISO?

I was previously the CISO at Capital One and was an AWS customer. As a former customer, I know exactly what it’s like to be a customer who relies on a partner for significant parts of their security. There needs to be a lot of trust, a lot of partnership across the shared responsibility model, and consistent focus on what’s being done to keep sensitive data secure. Every moment that I’m here at AWS, I’m reminded about things from the customer perspective and how I can minimize complexity, and help customers leverage the “super powers” that the cloud provides for CISOs who need to defend the breadth of their digital estate. I know how important it is to earn and keep customer trust, just like the trust I needed when I was in their shoes. This mindset influences me to learn as much as I can, never be satisfied with ”good enough,” and grab every opportunity I can to meet and talk with customers about their security.

What’s been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the security industry recently?

This is pretty easy to answer: artificial intelligence (AI). This is a really exciting time. AI is dominating the news and is on the mind of every security professional, everywhere. We’re witnessing something very big happening, much like when the internet came into existence and we saw how the world dramatically changed because of it. Every single sector was impacted, and AI has the same potential. Many customers use AWS machine learning (ML) and AI services to help improve signal-to-noise ratio, take over common tasks to free up valuable time to dig deeper into complex cases, and analyze massive amounts of threat intelligence to determine the right action in less time. The combination of Data + Compute power + AI is a huge advantage for cloud companies.

AI and ML have been a focus for Amazon for more than 25 years, and we get to build on an amazing foundation. And it’s exciting to take advantage of and adapt to the recent big changes and the impact this is having on the world. At AWS, we’re focused on choice and broadening access to generative AI and foundation models at every layer of the ML stack, including infrastructure (chips), developer tools, and AI services. What a great time to be in security!

What’s the most challenging part of being a CISO?

Maintaining a culture of security involves each person, each team, and each leader. That’s easy to say, but the challenge is making it tangible—making sure that each person sees that, even though their title doesn’t have “security” in it, they are still an integral part of security. We often say, “If you have access, you have responsibility.” We work hard to limit that access. And CISOs must constantly work to build and maintain a culture of security and help every single person who has access to data understand that security is an important part of their job.

What’s your short- and long-term vision for AWS Security?

Customers trust AWS to protect their data so they can innovate and grow quickly, so in that sense, our vision is for security to be a growth lever for our customers, not added friction. Cybersecurity is key to unlocking innovation, so managing risk and aligning the security posture of AWS with our business objectives will continue for the immediate future and long term. For our customers, my vision is to continue helping them understand that investing in security helps them move faster and take the right risks—the kind of risks they need to remain competitive and innovative. When customers view security as a business accelerator, they achieve new technical capabilities and operational excellence. Strong security is the ultimate business enabler.

If you could give one piece of advice to all CISOs, what would it be?

Nail Zero Trust. Zero Trust is the path to the strongest, most effective security, and getting back to the core concepts is important. While Zero Trust is a different journey for every organization, it’s a natural evolution of cybersecurity and defense in depth in particular. No matter what’s driving organizations toward Zero Trust—policy considerations or the growing patchwork of data protection and privacy regulations—Zero Trust meaningfully improves security outcomes through an iterative process. When companies get this right, they can quickly identify and investigate threats and take action to contain or disrupt unwanted activity.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m proud to have worked—and still be working with—such talented, capable, and intelligent security professionals who care deeply about security and are passionate about making the world a safer place. Being among the world’s top security experts really makes me grateful and humble for all the amazing opportunities I’ve had to work alongside them, working together to solve problems and being part of creating a legacy to make security better.

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Chris Betz

Chris Betz

Chris is CISO at AWS. He oversees security teams and leads the development and implementation of security policies, with the aim of managing risk and aligning the company’s security posture with business objectives. Chris joined Amazon in August 2023, after holding CISO and security leadership roles at leading companies. He lives in Northern Virginia with his family.

Lisa Maher

Lisa Maher

Lisa Maher joined AWS in February 2022 and leads AWS Security Thought Leadership PR. Before joining AWS, she led crisis communications for clients experiencing data security incidents at two global PR firms. Lisa, a former journalist, is a graduate of Texas A&M School of Law, where she specialized in Cybersecurity Law & Policy, Risk Management & Compliance.