Cyber security lapses have become regular news headlines as they relate to international corporations, financial institutions, Big Data and the highest levels of the U.S. government. However, businesses or organizations of any size that have an online presence or simply process credit cards are vulnerable to nefarious activity of so-called ‘hackers.’ This, according to Kevin Johnson, founder and owner of Jacksonville-based Secure Ideas, NFIB Member since 2014.
Secure Ideas is a cyber security firm which tests its clients’ data security through a practice defined as ‘ethical hacking.’ Mr. Johnson and his team of 15 consultants provide clients penetration testing or adversarial assessments on all online systems employed by their business or organization. Through the use of sophisticated technology and hardware, they work to break into their client’s systems and ultimately gain access to valuable and often highly confidential data. In rare cases, the ethical hackers fail to break through the existing firewalls. But too often, they succeed, thus revealing to the client that it must reassess it’s online operations and prioritize cyber security safeguards. Mr. Johnson says highly advisable safeguards include ‘IT hygiene’ measures such as regular system back-ups and frequent password changes, actions that can be easily and inexpensively incorporated into the business practice. Putting a significant priority on ethics in his own business practice, Mr. Johnson says his firm will only identify the problems but it becomes a ‘conflict of interest’ for his team to fix those problems and re-gain access to the clients’ private business data.
While Kevin Johnson remains very busy working for an ever-expanding, nationwide clientele, his expertise on the growing problem of data breaches has given him some unique opportunities to advocate the importance of cyber-security. In 2011, he testified before the U.S. Senate to give his professional opinion that the Federal contractor which built the online infrastructure to manage the Affordable Care Act did an insufficient job with the ACA rollout. He has been retained by the Florida Office of Attorney General and the the Federal Trade Commission as a cyber-security expert and between both agencies, he has served as an expert witness in several State and Federal cases. He appeared before a U.S. Senate Committee that was examining the security of mobile devices and provided detailed demonstrations of attacks to which many devices were susceptible. As a Pro Bono effort of the firm, Kevin and his team provide a quarterly clinic to area veterans and first responders on cyber security issues and best practices. In their free-time, Kevin and the consultants at Secure Ideas regularly attend events and festivals around Jacksonville dressed in replica costumes of some of their favorite Star Wars characters; those same costume serve as dramatic office décor when they are not being used in the field.
Small businesses of every size and throughout the country should immediately make it a priority to evaluate their data systems; Kevin says “security by obscurity is not a smart policy because companies everywhere are getting hacked.” He adds, “you don’t need expensive services, you simply need to utilize some basic security techniques which will prevent you from vulnerability to 90% of the current threats.” He goes on to say, “The FBI reported a current trend in Ransomware cost individuals and business $1 Billion in damages in 2016; regular system backups – or IT hygiene – are the best defense.
Secure Ideas opened the doors as a small business in 2010 and has grown significantly since that time. Owner Kevin Johnson says the biggest goal of his business is to be put out of business. He takes cyber security very seriously and genuinely wants to raise nationwide awareness that people need to recognize the many ongoing risks to data systems and practice the simple defense techniques that avert damaging and debilitating problems.