Interview: NJ Tech CEO Writes Book about Everyday Protections against Hacking

Photo: Scott Schober of Berkeley Varitronics Photo Credit: Courtesy Scott Schober

Scott Schober of Berkeley Varitronics | Courtesy Scott Schober recently interviewed via email Scott N. Schober, president and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systemsand co-author of a new self-published book called Hacked Again” Schober had spoken with last February about the business climate in New Jersey. You can read that article here.

Able to distill down to what the layman needs to know, Schober is a commentator on cyber security. He is often seen on ABC News, Bloomberg TV, Al Jazeera America, CBS This Morning News, CCTV America, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Fox News, Good Morning AmericaInside Edition, MSNBC and many more. “Hacked Again” follows up on some of those commentaries.

Tell me about your background.

For the past 15 years I have been the president and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems, a 40-year-old New Jersey-based privately held company providing wireless test and security solutions. I grew up surrounded by computers, and got my degree in software engineering, but I have always been fascinated with technology. From a very young age, I immersed myself in video games, computer programming and electronics and robotics; and I’ve always been intrigued by what makes things ‘tick’.

How did you get the idea for this book?

After my company suffered multiple credit and debit card compromises, with $65K taken from our checking account, our twitter account hacked, and website security “tested” by unknown hacker(s), I realized that I had become a target of the very cyber hackers I talked about in the media every day.

Through this painful process, I learned some valuable lessons on how to better protect my company and myself personally from cyber hackers. Instead of hiding the fact that my company had been hacked, I shared my story with others, and learned that I was not alone. As I’ve connected with other business owners, friends and colleagues, I shared my story in the hope that they will not be victimized as I have been.

The more I told my story, the more people kept asking me questions and, to my surprise, many of them could relate as victims themselves. Several encouraged me to write a book, which I quickly dismissed at first. But, then, why not? That started my journey to authoring “Hacked Again.”

How did you go about gathering material for this book?

Writing a book is a long process that takes countless hours and endless revisions. It took two years to get everything researched and written in its entirety. As I was writing, I would naturally find myself doing hours of extra research and fact checking on a particular topic to make sure I was technically accurate. I reached out to colleagues as well as to some industry experts that I had not yet met, all in the field of cybersecurity, in order to get a more complete picture of the subject. I also found that talking to experts who had also authored books provided a wealth of information.

For decades I had been writing technical articles, blogs (before they were called “blogs”) and, more recently, regular feature articles for monthly magazines in order to flex that writing muscle. When you are writing one or two pages for a particular article, you can lay out your ideas, do your research and write the entire article one the course of several hours, whereas when writing the book, I learned to stay true to my thesis and story by going back and rereading everything to maintain an accurate timeline and flow.

When it came to the chapters on the major breaches, I could speak firsthand because I had dug in deep doing research for many TV interviews. I was there as those stories broke, so I have a clear recollection of my answers to questions like: How did this breach actually happen? And what can people to do protect themselves? 

When I place myself in the reader’s shoes, it becomes all too clear that there is a need to provide practical information and tips that the average person can understand and apply. My readers are by no means dumb, but there is nothing wrong with dumbing down a complex subject or moving slowly through a concept in order to keep everyone up to speed. I had to learn to write in everyday language that readers could appreciate and digest, allowing us to move through many complex topics together.

Who should read the book and why?

Everywhere I go, I hear of people that have had their credit cards compromised or their ID stolen, so I share simple things that they can do to protect themselves and not let it happen again. So I have written this book to help the everyday mom, dad, family and small business owner to protect their personal data, credit cards, and identity. After cleaning up the mess of repeated hacks, you begin to feel paranoid, and for good reason. But I have learned that you do not have to fear hackers. You need only take some basic practical steps to stay safe.

Is there anything else you want people to know about this book?

When people hear terms like “hacker,” “cyber security,” “vulnerabilities,” “viruses,” “malware” and “ransomware,” they do not have to panic. When people feel overwhelmed or intimidated, they tend do nothing. They don’t create strong passwords. They do not back up their data regularly. Instead, they fool themselves into thinking that it won’t ever happen to them. Not only can it happen, but statistically, it will happen. And I am just one of many living examples of that. By getting some basic understanding and implementing practical everyday measures, with layers of security, anyone can stay safe and protect their families and businesses from future cyber attacks of all kinds.

Please give the readers three takeaways from the book.

1. Do not put too much information out on social media, as cyber hackers use this information to steal your identity.

2. Never click on any attachment in an email you were not expecting, or you may be the victim of a phishing attack 

3. Backing up your data regularly now has two powerful outcomes: You can save files that might have otherwise been lost forever and you can also avoid being the target of any ransomware scam out there.

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