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Hub national security attorney ‘thinks like a spy’

Mark Parker

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Alvin K. Brown. Photo provided.

An attorney that operates out of St. Petersburg’s Maritime and Defense Technology Hub is now leveraging his extensive national intelligence experience to offer clients security and compliance advice.

St. Pete native Alvin K. Brown is uniquely suited for his role as the only lawyer to call the Innovation District’s Hub home. Brown spent over 20 years in operations, management, policy and compliance positions with organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Naval Intelligence and U.S. Special Operations and Central Command, and many of the 15 other companies in the facility deal with matters of national security.

The Department of Defense designated Brown as an information warfare dominance officer, intelligence officer and counterintelligence investigator, among many other roles and certifications. Following a recent Tech X-change event at the Hub, Brown relayed how that experience benefits his work in the private sector.

“Obviously, the biggest thing I’ve taken is, I think like a spy,” said Brown. “So, when we’re talking about cybersecurity and privacy, I think holistically about the problem.”

Brown explained that many people in the field often think of cybersecurity as a technological issue when “nothing could be farther from the truth.” He said statistics show that 65% of incidents involve insider threats and human errors, although he believes that number is closer to 75%.

To Brown, digital social engineering attacks like phishing – when someone attempts to gain access to personal information by posing as a trustworthy source – are just fancy cybersecurity names for standard spy procedures established long before computers became commonplace.

Utilizing his national intelligence training, Brown becomes intimately familiar with a client’s operations to identify potential holes in their security apparatus.

“I’m looking for what processes you have in place or don’t have in place that I could take advantage of,” he said.

Brown noted the synergy that exists between his scope of knowledge and the other tenants in the Hub. If he has a question about data encryption, he can take a short walk down the hall. Conversely, if a defense contractor is unsure whether it is safe to export a document, they can privately consult with the resident cybersecurity attorney.

Forging relationships and possessing an intimate knowledge of a company’s operations, said Brown, is critical to providing expert legal and compliance advice. Having that familiarity established with his neighbors at the Hub aids in the event of an emergency or tight deadline.

Brown grew up in St. Pete and decided to transition to the private sector when his wife became pregnant with their first child. He said his law firm “was on paper” for several years, but he never invested much time or energy into growing the business until last year.

A friend and former employee relayed that his company was moving into the Hub, and he suggested that Brown also explore the opportunity. Like another friend, tenant and St. Pete native – Pat Mack, founder and CEO of PVM – Brown said the ability to give back to the community that raised him was also a deciding factor in planting roots in his hometown.

Brown hopes to work with St. Pete College to establish programs offering a legal curriculum with a cybersecurity and privacy emphasis. Those two-year courses, he said, would benefit kids adverse to staying in school for an additional six years and could provide them with career pathways in compliance or as an analyst.

“Building people and building St. Pete as a technology center,” said Brown. “I want kids from throughout the Tampa Bay area – but particularly kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods because that’s an underutilized source of commerce that we’re not tapping into.”

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