SANS Difference Makers Awards

The SANS Difference Makers Awards shine a light on the cybersecurity practitioners who are leading innovative developments in the industry, who’ve made outstanding security achievements, and who are contributing back to the InfoSec community in ways that deserve recognition.

Difference Makers Awards 2024

The planning for Difference Makers Awards 2024 is underway! Nominations will open this August — keep an eye out.

Interested in Sponsoring the 2024 DMA's?

If you'd like to learn more about how your organization can be involved in next year's ceremony, email us at

Why are the DMAs special? 

There are thousands of cyber security practitioners out there who are quietly succeeding and making breakthroughs every day in advancing security. It's time to recognize these individuals and teams.

At the SANS Cyber Defense Initiative conference in December 2024, SANS will hold its annual celebration of the most dedicated and innovative people who made a difference in security in 2024. 

This prestigious annual awards program honors individuals and teams in the cyber security community who have made a measurable and significant difference in security. Through their implementation of security processes or technology, each person has raised the bar in enabling secure business operations and reducing risk.

We have expanded the awards to include top mentors, content creators and the most influential champions focused on building the next generation. We've also partnered with on Chris Cochran and Ron Eddings from Hacker Valley Media as they share our passion for supporting the unsung heroes of cybersecurity and the humans at work behind the technology.

The common denominator in each nominee is their willingness and ability to do what SANS calls 'Fight the Good Fight' in advancing the state of practice in cybersecurity.

2023 Difference Makers Awards Ceremony | Watch the Replay

The awards ceremony took place in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 13, during SANS Cyber Defense Initiative 2023. It was a most special night of highlighting and celebrating our nominees — amazing unsung heroes in the cybersecurity community. Catch the replay on your channel of choice below.

2024 Award Categories


Article or Book of the Year

Published content in book or article form that makes a significant contribution to cybersecurity literature.

People’s Champion of the Year

Deeply supports the community through mentorship and/or social media presence provides valuable resources and connections for others in the field. Devotes significant time and energy to fostering talent and support those getting into cybersecurity.

Diversity Champion of the Year

Devotes significant time and energy to fostering talent and increasing representation and participation of under-represented minorities.

Innovation of the Year (Open-Source or Product Tool)

Using unique approaches to succeed through innovation and risk-taking and/or creating an open-source tool of significant value.

Podcast, Livestream or Video Series of the Year

Podcast or video of live-streamed content that makes a significant contribution to the industry.

Rising Star

Newer practitioners contributing in the industry - to keep an eye on.

Team of the Year

A team who has done extraordinary work in the industry.

Practitioner of the Year

An individual who has done extraordinary work in the industry.

CISO of the Year

Displayed extraordinary leadership skills, dedication to their team and passion for fostering an inclusive, thriving team environment.

Cybersecurity Company of the Year

(two categories “under 200 employees” and “over 200 employees”)

A community-minded company that offers high-quality products and services, demonstrates strong ethical standards, and exhibits exemplary leadership within cybersecurity.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Transcends categories; has made substantial contributions to cybersecurity over many years.

Advisory Board


  • This prestigious annual awards program, created by John Pescatore and our late founder Alan Paller, honors individuals and teams in the cyber security community who have made a measurable and significant difference in security. You can read more and view lists of previous winners at the links below.

  • Anyone can make a nomination! We want to hear from people all around the industry.

  • Complete all fields on the nomination form. The more detailed and specific your nomination, the better. The nomination should focus on work performed in 2022.

  • No! Nominations are free and open to anyone who wants to share great news about people and projects that deserve to be celebrated by the cybersecurity community.

  • Yes, and no! People and teams can receive multiple nominations, but it won’t add weight to the selection process.

  • Two things: The nominations will be summarized, and we’ll post a new survey form for the public to vote for their choice in each category. At the same time, the SANS Advisory Board, made up of a panel of SANS instructors and industry practitioners, will review the nominations and make their selection. There will be two winners in each category – the People’s Choice winner and the SANS Advisory Board winner.

  • The SANS Advisory Board represents a collective of SANS instructors and industry practitioners.

  • Submissions open – Monday, August 12

    Submissions close – Friday, September 13

    Finalists announced – Monday, October 14

  • There will be two winners per category – one selected by a popular vote and one selected by a SANS/industry committee.

  • There will be a simple form available online.

  • Sunday, December 15 in Washington, DC during SANS Cyber Defense Initiative 2024.
  • The awards ceremony will be by invitation-only, but it will be livestreamed here on both LinkedIn and YouTube. Choose your channel of choice, and select "Attend/Notify Me" on the landing page to be notified as the event date approaches.

  • There is travel support available for invited nominees as needed.