(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a periodic series spotlighting entrepreneurs who are participating in the inaugural cohort of the Bunker Labs Knoxville Chapter’s “Veterans in Residence” program.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“A lot of folks are hoping it doesn’t happen to them,” says Brent Gallo. The “it” is a cyberattack that takes down their computer systems for days, weeks or months.
He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who decided to end his military career in June 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Gallo was an Exploitation Analyst, stationed at Fort Gordon, GA.
“I was doing the cool stuff you can’t talk about,” he explained.
Once Gallo decided to leave the Air Force, he looked around and settled on Maryville as his next home. Once he knew where he would be living, Gallo found a job as an Information Systems Security Officer at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. About a year later, he filed the required paperwork to have an outside activity and launched Hire A Cyber Pro.
The company specializes in conducting security assessments to help its small business clients identify security weaknesses that they may not be aware of. After an assessment, the goal is to then help a client increase their organizational cybersecurity posture. The company also provides other types of assistance such as penetration tests and develops cybersecurity policies.
“Most business owners don’t understand the importance of security assessments,” Gallo says, noting that 43 percent of the hacks that occur each year are targeted at small businesses. “These things are happening, and they are significantly unreported.”
His goal with Hire A Cyber Pro is to prepare and educate business owners about the risks and actions they can take to better prepare themselves for what he says is the “not if but when” reality.
A quick review of the start-up’s website shows the impact of a cyberattack.
- Sixty percent of companies that suffer one go out of business within a year of the attack.
- The average cost of a ransomware attack on a business was $133,000 in 2020.
- After a cyberattack, 70 percent of consumers are unlikely to start or continue doing business with the company after the breach was disclosed.
Through his work, Gallo met Derren Burrell, a local representative of the national Bunker Labs organization, and subsequently became a member of the “22 Alpha” cohort of the Bunker Labs Knoxville “Veterans in Residence” (VIR) program. (See teknovation.biz article on the program here.)
“My goals with the VIR program are to better my skillset as an entrepreneur, speed-up my growth progress through networking, and continue building my company,” Gallo says. “It (the weekly session) is like entrepreneurial therapy for us.”
For now, Gallo relies on himself and several contractors to perform the work. In the future, he would like to run his small business with a team of full-time consultants working together to safeguard local businesses.