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Joe Beccalori is a 20-year digital marketing veteran and website security expert and is the CEO of Interact Marketing.
In the Beginning
Today is my 45th Birthday – not really a big deal, but for many of us those years that end in zero or five tend to present themselves with a little stress and anxiety. Like many folks, I tend to use these moments to review my life’s road-map, and check in on my long-term goals, developmental milestones, and bucket lists. Time is illusive and seems to gain speed with age. One thing I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, is that we can’t live in the past, but we must often look to our past for key learnings, patterns and insights. This is how we develop wisdom.
Thirty years ago today, a nerdy and pimply-faced sophomore in high school, I feverishly opened up my birthday gift, in great anticipation of its contents, and much to my surprise and satisfaction, I got exactly what I had asked for. A shiny, brand new 300 baud modem for my Commodore 64. Within minutes, it was hooked up to the family phone line, and I was pulse dialing my way onto CompuServe and several local BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems). Over the next six months, I was interacting online daily, making new friends – one of whom would eventually introduce me to my future wife, and unbeknownst to me, starting my career as an internet developer, and security expert.
The Early Need for Web Security
As I began to delve into this early form of the internet, where email was exchanged with the Arpanet only once every 24 hours, and private user groups anonymously exchanged information and files on thousands of topics, I was an early adopter that got a glance at the internet in its earliest of stages. One day, as I was browsing around sites loaded with pirated games, instructions on how to hack long distance phone codes, and downloads for “War Games” dialers that could be used to find and illegally gain access to a myriad of computer systems I realized one thing – the Internet was going to have a massive need for security.
Web 2.0 Demands Web Security 2.0
Fast forward fifteen years, and I was a recent Marketing M.B.A. graduate, unable to convince Madison Avenue of my worth, instead following my backup plan working as a web developer for a boutique firm on Wall Street, building web-based applications for some of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world. Even back then, we were using SSL, and building in multiple layers of network and application level security, scanning for SQL injection attacks, denial of service attacks and other common forms of hacking that were being introduced as real threats. Our firm was acquired that year by a leader in enterprise web-hosting, which afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the leading minds in web security. After a few years working on applications and networks that were architected by Cisco certified security experts, former government agents and contractors for the CIA and NSA, I really had a sense for how deep the rabbit hole went. It went very, very deep.
Even in this new phase of Web 2.0, it seemed that hackers and security penetration technology and methods were expanding as fast, if not faster, than web security itself. The gaps from discovery to patch were shorter, but the holes seemed bigger, and sure enough – some of the worst, most costly compromises of consumer and financial data occurred during this phase of the internet.