Cybercriminals surround us, constantly trying to break into our indispensable and ubiquitous digital devices. 

I recently received a recorded phone call telling me that my AT&T account had been hacked. I did not press Option 1 as requested, but instead called AT&T and was assured my account was secure. The recorded call was just another scam, an attempt to obtain personal information. My account number? Password? Date of birth? All dangerous in the wrong hands.

A new book from a cybersecurity expert offers a groundbreaking kind of solution to cybercrime. The Smartest Person in the Room: The Root Cause and New Solution of Cybersecurity (Lioncrest Publishers) by Christian Espinosa is written for those who work in the industry tasked with protecting computer systems from those trying to break in. But cybersecurity is something we are all concerned with now, even if it’s not our actual job.

CLEVER PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

Espinosa’s book takes a unique approach: Strengthen cyber defense by strengthening communication skills within a company. This involves learning better “people skills” such as empathy, active listening, vulnerability and trust. “Many technical people struggle with people skills because they’re more used to dealing with programs and code than actual human beings,” he writes. “And corporations are, at the basis, just people trying to work together. And if your technical staff isn’t thriving in the workplace, your data is at risk.”

Trained in network engineering in the military, Espinosa then worked for the Department of Homeland Security and private companies. He also was a cybersecurity professor at a university of applied sciences, and taught a master-level ethical hacking class. He’s founder and CEO of Alpine Security, a cybersecurity services company, and a speaker and coach for cybersecurity training.

“For the majority of my three-decade career in cybersecurity, I wanted to be the smartest person in the room,” he writes. “I led with my ego and postured and bullied my way through meetings.” His people skills were “subpar,” so he decided to learn how to be a better person. 

A UNICORN BOOK

Part cyber-tech, part self-help, the book is the story of the author’s personal growth. He overcame the insecurities hindering his personal and professional fulfillment, the same problems he feels hinder the effectiveness and growth of the cybersecurity industry. 

His Secure Methodology system for improvement incorporates seven steps: 

  1. Awareness — Awareness of ourselves and the behaviors we are in control of, and also awareness of others and the world around us. This empowers us with options.
  2. Mindset — Our mind is a powerful tool that we can use to our advantage or disadvantage. Mindset is either fixed or open to growth. 
  3. Acknowledgment — Acknowledgment of ourselves and others reminds us of what we are capable of and what motivates us.
  4. Communication — Our fulfillment in life boils down to how well we communicate with ourselves and others. Words, tone of voice and body language are important parts of this.
  5. Monotasking — Presence is our ally; distraction is our enemy. Being able to focus is key.
  6. Empathy — Our inner demons, successes and failures can connect us to humanity.
  7. Kaizen — The Japanese concept that continuous improvement is necessary for evolution.

Filled with dozens of anecdotes about these principles, plus many psychological exercises for implementing them, The Smartest Person in the Room is a valuable asset for any CEO, manager or cybersecurity team. It’s also a fascinating view of exactly what real security entails, both for companies and individuals. Read it for insight, implement the principles and sleep better at night.


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Christian Espinosa is the Founder and former CEO of Alpine Security, a cybersecurity engineer, certified high-performance coach, professor and lover of heavy metal music and spicy food. He’s also an Air Force veteran and Ironman triathlete. He used to value being the “smartest person in the room,” only to realize that his greatest contribution to the fight against cybercrime is his ability to bring awareness to the issue through effective communication. Christian is a speaker, coach and trainer in the Secure methodology, helping to make the smartest people in the room the best leaders in the field.