John Matherly is often referred to as a “rock star” in the world of cyber security.
He is in high demand as a speaker, he’s been wildly successful in business, and he’s constantly in the media spotlight.
Rock star status notwithstanding, Matherly wasn’t recognized when he climbed into a taxi this week at Huntsville International Airport, a place about which he marvels with the prodigious display of military and defense industry signage that greets arriving passengers.
However, what Matherly was here for was recognized by his driver. That’s a pretty good sign about the impact of the ninth annual National Cyber Summit at the Von Braun Center.
“I always talk to the taxi driver and usually when I’m attending a conference, I ask if they’ve heard of us. Ninety-eight percent of the time, they’ve never heard,” Matherly said. “This time, (my driver) knew all about it.”
Most people are thinking about how you protect your castle. But the past year, with these ransomware attacks, you see that you can build a giant castle but if your neighbor isn’t secure, guess what. Neither are you. It’s absolutely pivotal we move past that ‘my castle’ mentality and into community.”
This was Matherly’s second visit to Huntsville, and the Cyber Summit is the largest conference of its kinds that he attends. He dove into the community with a private rental in Twickenham rather than a hotel stay, and left with regrets that his stay was cut short by a day.
The Swiss-born Matherly is the founder of Shodan, a search engine for Internet-connected devices.
“Shodan … (is) looking for all the stuff that’s connected to the internet, from routers and refrigerators to live webcams that give you a glimpse inside people’s homes to, well, who knows what,” wrote Wired magazine.
Shodan is a tool for researchers, universities, major companies and the security industry.
For the latter, Matherly was visiting Huntsville, preaching a message of enhanced security and collaboration.
“One thing we’ve learned over the past year about cyber security, you can’t rely on building moats,” he said before giving a keynote luncheon speech. “You have to build an effective team of people.
“Most people are thinking about how you protect your castle. But the past year, with these ransomware attacks, you see that you can build a giant castle but if your neighbor isn’t secure, guess what. Neither are you. It’s absolutely pivotal we move past that ‘my castle’ mentality and into community.”
Matherly was seated behind a table at the Cyber Summit’s main booth, just inside the exhibition hall, as he chatted. At that moment, a woman walked up, asking for information. She assumed the rock star of the cyber world was a booth worker. He couldn’t answer her question. Then again, Shodan could give her all the information she needed, and more.