Hacker Valley Studio

Cyber Espionage & Entrepreneurship with Karim Hijazi

July 26, 2022

Karim Hijazi, Founder & CEO at Prevailion and host of the Introverted Iconoclast podcast, comes to Hacker Valley Studio to discuss his varied experiences in entrepreneurship. With a humble start in bartending, Karim explains how learning about people inspired his exploration into counterespionage and cybersecurity. Armed with stories from the streets of NYC to the hallways of his own companies, this episode is a look into the mind of a successful entrepreneur and founder of 2 incredible businesses.

Timecoded Guide:

[00:00] Bartending in NYC and its overlap with espionage and entrepreneurship

[07:14] Real-life knowledge application in cyber intelligence 

[12:15] Founding Unveillance and being acquired by Mandiant 

[18:22] Karim’s entrepreneurial mindset and his journey with Prevailion 

[24:51] DIY podcasting with Introverted Iconoclast and learning to tell his stories

 

Sponsor Links:

Thank you to our sponsors Axonius and AttackIQ for bringing this episode to life! 

Want to learn more about how Mindbody enhanced their asset visibility and increased their cybersecurity maturity rating with Axonius? Check out axonius.com/mindbody 
AttackIQ - better insights, better decisions, and real security outcomes. That's why we partnered with them to create free cybersecurity trainings! Check it out at academy.attackiq.com

 

How do your experiences in bartending and espionage overlap?

The jobs taken as a means to an end just might teach something invaluable. This was the case for Karim, who took a job bartending to make ends meet while he figured out what he wanted to do with his future. At the time, cybersecurity and counterespionage weren’t on Karim’s radar, but bartending taught him about people; how they act when they want something and how to connect with them even in the busiest and most public places. Learning this changed the game for Karim when he got into the espionage world and assisted him even more so when he became an entrepreneur in the industry.

“It's just learning the way to slowly gain a confidence level with someone. It's actually where the word "con man" comes from, confidence man. Ultimately, that is how you get the information you need.” 

 

What are the different aspects that organizations or individuals look at with counterintelligence?

At Karim’s own firm, the shift from competitive intelligence to counterintelligence focused around three security aspects. One, identifying weak spots and vulnerabilities, noticing your points of exploitations and vectors of attack. Two, taking advantage of disinformation, using it to root out moles within an organization and throw off cyber adversaries. Finally, three, finding out where your information is going and noticing where there is weaker security than your own. Karim emphasizes that in this third aspect, it is not so much about an organization’s strategy when the information is still at home. It’s harder to secure information once it goes elsewhere.

“A controlled rumor within an organization can do several things. It can weed out a mole that you may have, a spy within your organization that maybe you don't know about, that's been able to be hired and gotten through the background checks and whatnot.”

 

When you look back to starting your journey as an entrepreneur, what are some of the wrong assumptions you made early on? 

Karim, like many entrepreneurs, was under the impression when he founded his first company, Unveillance, that he should be seeking to hire, not to do anything himself. While hiring is an important part of being a business owner, Karim has realized that it's better to learn how every piece of the machine of a company works before hiring. Trying things out for himself and taking a chance on his own abilities hasn’t been easy, but it’s made him a better leader for his employees. If they drop the ball or need his assistance, he’s able to lead from a place of understanding and call the shots with his own vision in mind and his own knowledge to back him up. 

“As a CEO, it's almost imperative for you to go and try it all, even if you fumble through it and you get by with something that is subpar. It's better to have tried it and understand it, so now you know how to call the shots a little better.” 

 

What prompted you to start your podcast, Introverted Iconoclast?

Ironically enough, Karim’s podcast was a do-it-yourself project born out of having an employee drop the ball on creating it for him. Relying on himself and struggling his way through the beginning, Karim realized that podcasting is not just about the equipment and the idea behind it, it’s about the stories being told. Focusing on the lead up and context around some of his own career stories and professional highlights, Karim was able to discover the rhythm for his podcast and build a solid foundation of content that opened up doors for new topics to be addressed and new guests to welcome onto his show. 

“It's very cathartic for me. Speaking the stories out loud, rather than just sort of regaling people over a dinner or thinking back on them nostalgically, is extremely interesting because you remember things you don't remember when you're casually talking about them.”

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Links:

Keep up with Karim Hijazi on LinkedIn and Twitter

Check out Prevailion on their website

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