RiskIQ’s Ben Harknett talks security, Elon Musk, tennis and more in our look at his IT Life
Tell us about your current role, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?
I’m currently the VP EMEA for RiskIQ, a security company which focuses on helping organisations discover and protect their public facing digital footprint across web, mobile and social. Just over a year ago I was brought on to set up the operation over here and today we have 20 EMEA employees across sales, business development and channel and 25 customers across the region. Prior to RiskIQ I opened new markets for several leading technology vendors, most recently as EMEA GM for social media technology vendor Wildfire Interactive, where we grew EMEA revenues from 0 to $12m in 18 months before being acquired by Google.
What motivates you right now?
Cyber security threats are rapidly changing and security organisations are struggling to get ahead of the curve. With digital channels matching or overtaking traditional channels in most industries, Cyber has become a business imperative. I get a buzz out of helping enable security organisations to run just as fast as the business side; reducing risk, whilst not slowing anything down.
What has been your favourite project so far?
It would have to be working with a number of marquee brands to help them gain control of their mobile app footprint. While today there is a focus on developing secure mobile apps, few people realise what happens in practice when those apps are released. Like most people, before joining RiskIQ, I knew about the primary app stores; Apple, Google, Windows, Blackberry, etc., but had no idea that there are close to 500 app stores out there and that mobile apps proliferate across that ecosystem. I’d also read about copycat and fake apps but had no idea of the sheer numbers out there. Our clients are all equally surprised with what we find regarding their footprint.
What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?
10 years ago I was in University in the US, so I mostly used the internet to communicate with friends and family back home. Had I known how my career would evolve, I would have done lots more coding courses!
What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
10 years ago I couldn’t have predicted today’s technology landscape so I’m sure I stand no chance in predicting what things will be like in 2015. However, I’m pretty confident that the backbone of it all will still be the web and we’ll still be battling with digital adversaries to protect our business and our customers.
Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
I guess my hero would be Elon Musk. I find his visions of how things could be both fascinating and inspiring. He doesn’t let ‘reality’ limit where he goes. In terms of a tech villain, it is more a class of tech villain – those cyber criminals driving the growth of malvertising; embedding malware and social engineering in the worldwide ad ecosystem. We recently released research showing a 260 percent growth in malvertising in the first 6 months of 2015 alone. The vibrant internet we all rely on is funded in large part by advertising so malvertising, if left unchecked poses a significant threat to that model.
What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I still don’t have my motorcycle licence so I get around London on my trusty Vespa (I’m sure I’ve left my helmet in half the office receptions across London at some point).
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Just keeping on top of everything that the business is doing, the business requires, and where technology is evolving to meet those needs. Things are changing so rapidly, especially with the cloud, that IT teams really need to be both pragmatic and visionary at the same time.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
At the moment I’m a big fan of Kiva, as it allows all of us to power would be entrepreneurs on a global scale.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
To cloud. It’s important for the business to move fast and be nimble. It’s just as important to have the right safeguards in place though, and I don’t think a lot of the business teams truly understand the challenges their Security teams face, and how many bad guys are out there.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I was convinced I was going to win Wimbledon. That’s actually how I ended up in the US at University, on a tennis scholarship. I was a Pro for a while, but always had a strong interest in business. I’m very lucky to have been able to do both.
Ben Harknett is the VP EMEA at RiskIQ
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