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High Five: Meet Rohit Dhamankar, Senior manager of security research for TippingPointHigh Five: Meet Rohit Dhamankar, Senior manager of security research for TippingPoint

Rohit Dhamankar's day job is at security researcher TippingPoint, but he's best known for his sideline: He's responsible for choosing and ranking the world's top security vulnerabilities for the SANS Institute. He got his first job in 1999 with Cisco Systems, where he worked as a software developer on intrusion-detection and scanner products.

2 Min Read

Rohit Dhamankar
Senior Manager of Security Research, TippingPoint
Interview by Kelly Jackson Higgins, Dark Reading

Rohit Dhamankar, Senior manager of security research for TippingPoint


Dhamankar, 32, and his classmates in India had to hack into and use their engineering professors' e-mail so they could apply to U.S. graduate schools. "We didn't have e-mail back then," he says of himself and other students at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. "So we got into our professors' e-mail accounts so we could send e-mail. Some of them had never used e-mail before, so they weren't checking it regularly."


Dhamankar admits the SANS vulnerability list he compiles doesn't change drastically from week to week. About every six months, however, he witnesses a shift in the types of attacks under way. He's watched bug trends go from pervasive worms to phishing and spyware, then to client-side vulnerabilities in applications like Microsoft Office, he says.


SANS's ranking system works, Dhamankar says, though it ultimately comes down to him to make the final call. He sends out his list to a panel of experts from companies, universities, consultants, and vendors, who all put their heads together. "We seek out other users and ask if the list is useful to them," he says. "Nobody says, 'You guys suck.'"


When he's not analyzing and ranking bugs, Dhamankar sings. He takes classical South Indian music vocal lessons and, from time to time, performs around Austin, where he's stayed since leaving India for the University of Texas. "I help promote the Indian classical music scene," he says.


"We see a lot of attacks come out of China, which freaks me out. They're going for all different kinds of attacks. It's kind of scary when you don't know what they're up to."

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