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A 3D printed model of men working on computers are seen in front of displayed binary code and words "Hacker" in this illustration taken, July 5, 2021.
A 3D printed model of men working on computers are seen in front of displayed binary code and words "Hacker" in this illustration taken, July 5, 2021. Reuters / DADO RUVIC

As the world becomes increasingly digitized, even the most traditional companies have been forced to embrace the online world. The pandemic accelerated this change, with many people now working from home; more and more of our lives are being spent in front of our phones and laptops. This has led to an increase in cybersecurity breaches, with cases of hacking rising worryingly during 2020. The problem is highlighted by the surprising fact that 47% of individuals working remotely fall for phishing scams.

There are a variety of cybersecurity measures that effectively defend against hackers. However, these come at a price - and currently, this price is simply out of reach for most individuals and small businesses. This greatly unbalances the playing field, as big companies can afford the best cybersecurity, while small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are left vulnerable. One in two large enterprises spend $1 million or more on bolstering their online defenses. It is, therefore, unsurprising that 43% of all cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses.

Ryan Smith has identified two core aspects of this problem, and he aims to tackle them in tandem. Firstly, there are the unreasonable prices of cybersecurity software. Secondly, there is a key issue with awareness. Many individuals and SMEs are not aware of how dangerous and widespread cybercrime is.

Smith’s company, SmithSec, is providing an alternative route towards online safety. If people become more knowledgeable about cybersecurity, then they can defend themselves without the need to purchase expensive defensive technology. Smith is striving towards this goal through his educational YouTube channel, on which he condenses complex and technical information into easily consumable and fun masterclasses. These often center around the techniques that hackers will use, on the basis that the more effectively we know our enemies, the better we can protect ourselves against them.

Alongside these free videos, for small companies, SmithSec offers a host of affordable security measures. These include risk assessments and penetration tests, both of which enable Smith to evaluate businesses’ current levels of protection, so that he can then advise them as to how they can efficiently boost these defenses. SmithSec also helps businesses to set-up ‘Splunk’, which allows companies to keep tabs on their data and detect any suspicious activity before it spreads too far.

In times when SMEs are already struggling with the after-effects of the pandemic, SmithSec’s services can save business-owners from having to spend exorbitant amounts on cybersecurity, while still ensuring they get the protection they need. Otherwise, hackers will continue to bring down entire businesses and ruin people’s livelihoods.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith Ryan Smith

Smith was motivated to enter this field after gaining extensive experience in the cybersecurity field, having helped companies such as NASA and Relativity Space bolster their online defenses. He saw that there were an alarming number of people in these industries - including IT experts and technicians - who were not aware of the severity of the issues that could affect them.

Smith felt that it was not fair that only big corporations have access to strong cyber-protection. After teaching a number of students about this, he found that people were keen to learn more about how they could protect themselves - they just weren't sure where they could get this information. This inspired Smith to found SmithSec, as a way of leveling the cybersecurity playing field for smaller businesses and individuals.

The threat of hackers can be deeply distressing, particularly if we are not entirely aware of how they operate and how we can defend ourselves. Nonetheless, SmithSec offers a message of hope: it is possible to effectively arm ourselves against cyber-criminals, and this protection does not have to cost a hacker’s ransom.