Meet the young CEO of a leading international cyber security firm

Meet the young CEO of a leading international cyber security firm

For most people, the age of 19 usually indicates the first year of University, and the beginning of a career, perhaps an unpaid internship.

For Sam Crowther (pictured), CEO of cyber security firm Kasada, 19 is the year he founded a company that would go on to become a major international player.

I know, I gasped too.

With cybersecurity becoming a priority for all Australian businesses, big and small, the role of a company like Kasada is becoming more important by the week.

Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime will cost the world in excess of US$6 trillion annually by 2021, up from US$3 trillion in 2015.

With the rate of cyber-attacks set to grow over the next few years, the human labour required to stem the flow of information is simply impossible to deploy. However, there will be a serious need for cybercrime specialists, with Cybersecurity Ventures estimating there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.

Business News Australia spoke to Crowther, now 23 years old, about his journey to becoming the CEO of a company with offices in Australia and the United States, and the future of cybersecurity.

You are young for a CEO, and a CEO of an emerging cyber security organisation at that. Could you tell me about how you got to where you are today?

Three things helped me get to become a CEO.  Set a clear goal, build the support around you, and be thirsty to learn.

When I was about 15 and in year 10 at school, I set my sights on starting a tech company. I held onto that goal from that point onwards. My work experiences during and post school reinforced this goal. I've always sought out people who were CEOs or knew the vital ingredients of being a successful CEO.  They were, and still are, essential in helping me become a CEO from my early twenties. "Be a mentor and be mentored" is a great mantra to live by.

And, finally, never stop reading, listening to podcasts and exploring the knowledge of others. I'm experiencing, and benefiting from, a tremendous "pay it forward" attitude of many CEOs, coaches and advisors willing to share their experiences and tips for success.

Obviously, you need to be a little discerning as you digest other peoples' experiences, but the benefits of being open to learning are obvious.

In your time leading Kasada what would you say has been the most important lesson you've learnt?

Clarity of vision.  By this I mean you need to have a clear vision for the team you lead and, equally important, a clear vision for what you want to achieve personally and professionally.

There's no doubt being a CEO is challenging.  Expectations are the highest on you because the buck stops with you.  Having a clear vision of what needs to be done is the first step in achieving things for your team, customers, investors and other stakeholders.

Tell me about Kasada and how the business first came about?

Kasada is a cyber security company. I started the company in Sydney NSW in 2015 and now we have offices in Melbourne and Chicago, USA.  Kasada started because I wanted to commercial software to make online transactions more secure with less hassle for users.

What does Kasada specialise in?

Kasada stops malicious non-human traffic (called bots) attacking websites. Criminals, either individually or in gangs, are constantly trying to break into websites and steal money, account details and other valuable assets. Kasada's technology sits in front of a website and detects whether a visitor is legitimate or not. We use complex algorithms and a few other things to foil illegitimate attempts to break in.

Cyber security is fast becoming the number one threat to Australian businesses. What are your recommendations to avoid a data breach / hack?

For business, here are four things to do:

  1. Identify how bots can affect your customers
  2. Understand their impact on infrastructure & other costs
  3. Be aware of online portal security
  4. Be prepared to respond to a data breach.

For website users, there are three things you can do to improve your security:

  1. Don't reuse the same password on multiple sites
  2. Change your passwords on reasonably frequently, and consider using a password manager
  3. Avoid using free apps because often the app owner will share your details with third parties without your knowledge.

Earlier in the year we witnesses a major breach of LandMark White. This attack saw the company suspended trading on the ASX and basically shut down operations for a long period. What are some key takeaways from this?

Today it's never been easier and cheaper to attack websites.  Attackers are continually innovating. This means the automated tools needed to attack websites and their essential ingredients - stolen usernames and passwords - are easily sourced. They also don't cost much, either.

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