• CSIS reports cyberattacks have increased exponentially and 80% of firms have been increasingly affected in 2020. 
  • The pandemic has opened up new avenues for cybercriminals as online activity magnifies. 
  • “The Smartest Person in the Room” author Christian Espinosa identifies that the biggest problem lies with ineffective communication. 
  • Espinosa has developed a seven-part methodology to combat the increasing threat that cyberattacks pose. 

The e-commerce industry has flourished with global lockdowns keeping people at home. However, this has been accompanied by increased opportunity for cyber attacks through 2020. The flood of online transactions has provided ample opportunity for credit card hacks. In addition to this, the emergence of widespread remote work has prompted the introduction of novel ways of attack on both individuals and organizations. 

This is a special worry for companies that work with sensitive information - information that cannot be disseminated without dire consequences. As such, companies rely on hiring the brightest minds to ensure that their data remains safe. However, this does not always have the desired result and most businesses are still constantly faced with cybersecurity breaches. 

Christian Espinosa, founder of Alpine Security and US Air Force veteran, has pondered what struggles lie ahead when it comes to cybersecurity and the measures that will need to be put in place in order to combat it. His book “The Smartest Person in the Room” highlights what can be done in order to finally eradicate, or significantly minimize, cyberattacks which have devastating effects on businesses and individuals. 

The Smartest Person in The Room The Smartest Person in The Room Photo: Christian Espinosa

His insights originate not only from his experience within the industry at management level, but also as someone who used to believe in his value as “the smartest person in the room.” However, he came to the realization that his true value lies in his ability to raise awareness of the significance of effective communication. 

Cyberattacks in 2020

According to a report by FinTech News, 80% of firms have been faced with more and more cyberattacks and healthcare and banks are prominent targets with 27% of attacks focused on them. Between January and April alone, cloud-based attacks increased by 630% and March saw a 148% increase in ransomware attacks. Since the end of February, phishing attacks have risen by 600% and visits to hacker websites and forums also increased 66% in March. 

What is the biggest reason for this problem? 

There is no doubt that cybercriminals will always be around and they will continue to cause havoc. They will constantly try to hack into networks and steal valuable information. Despite the numerous attempts being made worldwide to curb this phenomenon, Espinosa believes that these methods are failing. There is constantly news of data breaches with significant consequences and it appears as if cybercriminals are still ahead of the game. 

According to Espinosa, “the problem isn’t with the software or hardware that is used to combat cybercriminals, but rather the people employed to do so. Those in positions of power within companies often rely completely on cybersecurity staff in order to safeguard company data. However, at the heart of the problem lies not complex frameworks and best practices, but rather technical employees and egos.”

The technical employees were chosen for their ability to predict and counter cybersecurity threats. However, the problem lies not with the lack of state-of-the-art technology utilised by these professionals, but rather their inability to communicate effectively with others. It is their desire to be “the smartest person in the room” that is the ultimate downfall in the fight against cybercriminals as there is no effective communication and collaboration between those who need to work together to win this cybersecurity war. 

What is the Solution? 

Espinosa believes that communication is key. In order to properly address any problem, professionals need to be able to work together in order to come up with a long-lasting solution. 

“In order to win this war against cybercriminals, we must fortify the way in which we communicate. This communication requires people skills - there must be trust between individuals. Everyone needs to demonstrate empathy towards each other, listening intently to what others have to say is essential, and ultimately, every single person must be able to show some vulnerability. No-one is right all the time, but together, every weakness can be compensated with the strength of another.”

Espinosa posits that the reason so many technical people have problems communicating with others is because they feel insecure. The ambiguity that dealing with others entails is what bothers them because they desire certainty. Of course, this certainty is nearly impossible when dealing with an array of people within an organization especially when business politics run rampant. 

“Technical people tend to grapple with curiosity. In private, technically-minded individuals are filled with curiosity at the working of things, however, this curiosity does not always manifest in public. Essentially, most people in the technical profession would rather hold their tongues than have their restricted knowledge revealed. They want to be the smartest person in the room and that means knowing it all. However, true growth is dependent on curiosity which is not inhibited by fear of judgment.” 

Final Take 

In his book, Espinosa highlights that the only truly viable way of combating the ever-growing cybersecurity threat is through effective communication, real intelligence, and self-confidence rather than excessively high IQs. Through decades of first-hand knowledge and research, Christian has formulated a seven-step methodology which is aimed at developing technical teams so that they are better equipped to deal with the current threats. 

“Ultimately, our biggest weapon is ourselves. We cannot rely solely on technology to save us in this war - we need people to work together. If we combine our strengths, our weaknesses become miniscule, and we start being able to put up a united front that is stronger than any firewall.”