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How Do IT Professionals Feel About the NSA Surveillance Programs?

How Do IT Professionals Feel About the NSA Surveillance Programs?
Kevin Mitnick

Consumer privacy and online security. It’s increasingly difficult these days to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing about either of these issues. When the news broke regarding the FBI and National Security Agency‘s surveillance programs that included collecting cellphone data from Americans, both citizens and industry experts voiced strong opinions on the matter. Privacy vs. national safety? Where should the line be drawn?

Stu Sjouwerman is the CEO of KnowBe4 and Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness Training, an IT firm based in Florida. Sjouwerman wanted to know how IT professionals in particular felt about these controversial NSA programs.

Take it away, Stu!

KnowBe4 helps people to stay safe online. We do what is called “security awareness training” for people in an office environment, but we also have a course that teaches all family members on how to be Internet-safe at home. Cybercrime has gone pro over the last five years and sending people millions of phishing and spear-phishing emails is no longer uncommon. Our mission is to provide our customers with a great product for an affordable price. For business customers, we also provide simulated phishing attacks using dozens of pre-made templates.That means that all employees get different simulated phishing emails in their inbox on a very regular basis. It only takes about ten minutes to set up a whole year’s worth of simulated attacks so we’re very focused on being admin-friendly.

We’re also a bit different from the rest of the IT security pack, because our course was created based on the first-hand hacking experience of Kevin Mitnick, who back in the nineties was called “The World’s Most Wanted Hacker”. I sat down with Kevin and over the course of eight months, we distilled his 30+ years of hacking experience into a 30-minute training for employees in an office environment. The training is done online on an ‘on-demand’ basis, relies on real case studies and includes videos where Kevin reveals hacker secrets. There are also short, fun quizzes available for additional learning. Many of our customers are in Finance, Healthcare, High-tech and Manufacturing and we’re on a three-year 500% growth curve.

We use SurveyMonkey as a main component of our marketing. For instance, we surveyed families and asked what they were most worried about regarding Internet safety. Then we surveyed them about which ones were the most important and asked how long each training segment should be. The whole course was built based upon customer feedback from surveys. Their feedback also helped inform our marketing campaign.

Our marketing messaging is completely survey-based. We first ask how the customer would voice the problem in their own words, then after tabulation, we ask what image comes to mind when they read the correctly voiced problem. Surveys also help us position the product correctly in the prospect’s mind. We also use SurveyMonkey to ask existing customers about their product experience, get their feedback on new features and determine the relative importance of those features. This all helps us complete our product roadmap.

Sometimes we ask their opinion about larger topics like we recently did on the NSA surveillance programs. I created our NSA survey and asked the very same survey questions that the Washington Post-Pew Research Center Poll asked the general public with one exception: The survey was sent to more than 1,500 IT professionals–people who do understand computer security. The results were quite different than the Post/Pew’s results. In the KnowBe4 survey, some 70% said the NSA’s actions were unacceptable, compared to 41% in the Washington Post-Pew survey. One of our respondents wrote, “Too many law enforcement agencies have demonstrated they cannot be trusted and often put themselves above the law to achieve their goals”.

Here’s our NSA survey, feel free to take it!

We literally live and die by surveys here at KnowBe4, because we like to “know before we go”.

To learn more about KnowBe4, please visit their site here.

Stu Sjouwerman (pronounced ‘shower-man’) is founder and CEO of KnowBe4. He has a 33-year background in IT and was one of the co-founders of Sunbelt Software which built a new antivirus product from scratch.

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