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Clearwater, Tampa cybersecurity firms draw national spotlight

Margie Manning



Cybersecurity image. File photo.

Leaders at KnowBe4, ReliaQuest and Abacode are getting national notice for their work to protect the online security of businesses and consumers.

Stu Sjouwerman

Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4, testified before a U.S. Senate committee looking at cyber scams related to Covid-19.

“Covid-19 has quickly reshaped the cyber threat landscape. For example, over 192,000 coronavirus-related phishing attacks have occurred per week over the last month,” Sjouwerman told the Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on manufacturing, trade, and consumer protection. “Malicious actors are aggressively exploiting the Covid-19 crisis by re-purposing and overhauling the phishing emails they were running before the coronavirus emerged in late  December. Although the bad guys have been developing new social engineering schemes uniquely based on the onslaught of recent events, these Covid-19 ‘re-treads’ are fast becoming the most common variety of coronavirus-themed phishing emails that we encounter on a day-to-day basis.”

Clearwater-based KnowBe4 provides cybersecurity awareness training and a simulated phishing platform to more than 33,000 organizations employing 24 million people worldwide. Workers learn how to become “human firewalls” and guard against data breaches.

That’s a crucial part of cybersecurity, Sjouwerman told senators.

“The emphasis in cybersecurity has traditionally been on hardware and software. However, we cannot solely rely on that. This strategy cannot catch everything, nor does it address the need for a human firewall. The largest breaches in our country — to include John Podesta’s personal email, our U.S. power grid, JP Morgan Chase, Sony Pictures, etc. — these systems relied on hardware and software for defense, yet still fell victim to phishing attacks,” Sjouwerman said in written testimony submitted to the subcommittee. “Through new-school security awareness training, the likelihood of such social engineering attacks are significantly decreased, and organizations are inoculated against the types of compromises we’re seeing today.”

Sjouwerman asked the senators to endorse measures to direct government agencies to implement ongoing security awareness training, more than the annual training that is typically in place, and to include frequent social engineering testing.

See his July 21 video testimony below.


ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based cybersecurity provider for businesses, got a nod from Fast Company in the publication’s annual Best Workplaces for Innovators list.

The Office of the CTO at ReliaQuest was recognized with an honorable mention for Innovative Team of the Year, a new category on the best workplaces list.


The Office of the CTO, led by chief technology officer Joe Partlow, developed a way to continuously monitor security threats across various security technologies, using its GreyMatter platform.

“ReliaQuest’s Office of the CTO’s mission is to foresee the next challenges and solutions that no one else is thinking of in cybersecurity, with a focus on increasing visibility and extending automation across the security lifecycle,” Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of ReliaQuest, said in a news release. “The launch of continuous cyber assurance was a proud moment for us and the culmination of a lot of hard work and time from both this team and others across ReliaQuest.”

Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators list is here.

Abacode, a managed cybersecurity and compliance services provider in Tampa, has turned cybersecurity awareness into a competitive trivia game.

The Tampa company is launching Cybersecurity Jeopardized, which features categories such as cybersecurity history, facts, attacks, notorious bad actors and more. 

It’s hosted by Jerry Rasmussen, Abacode’s chief technology officer and chief information security officer, each Friday at 1 p.m. eastern time, starting Friday, Aug. 7.

Learn more about rules, how to apply to play or watch at Cybersecurity Jeopardized!

Earlier this week Abacode debuted a weekly series, highlighting a “breach of the week,” hosted by Robert Lubin, Abacode’s SOC director. He explains what the breach is, why and how it happened, what to look for to detect this type of breach, the potential business implications, and what steps a company can take to prevent the breach from occurring. The series is live every Thursday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Join the series here.

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