You think that fighting cyber threats is different from skiing? Well, we beg to differ. And so does Komitas Stepanyan, Deputy Head of Internal Audit at Central Bank of Armenia. When I first introduced myself to him as EBCG’s Social Media and Content Maniac, I wasn’t expecting his reaction. “I loved your description! I am ready to be the “Victim” in this context! What a professional maniac!”.
It is always an honor to meet our speakers but my favorite part is when you finally get to know the person behind the big job title. Komitas started working as an information security specialist at Central Bank of Armenia back in 2005. “Looking back” he says “if I have to compare myself when I entered CBA and now, I would best describe me as a beginner skier, who knows how to ski and enjoys skiing at 50Km/h. Now I am a professional “skier”, who is familiar with challenges and I owe it all to CBA for investing in me.”
Komitas, what made you so eager to focus on I.T. and data communication?
Everything started in my childhood. I admired everything that had the ability to change. And to change fast. If you look a few years back, you will see how much technology has changed and the way it affected us. The scenario from the movie “The 5th Element” is not so far-fetched. Take for example Sophia.
This new human-robot, developed by Hanson Robotics in 2016, is the newest genius machine introduced to the world. Her creator, Dr. David Hanson was aspired to create machines smarter than humans that can learn creativity, empathy and compassion.
Another example of rapid changes are the biggest-ever cyber heists where hackers tried to steal nearly $82 million from Bangladesh’s central bank. Last year, we experienced so many innovations in technology.
So as you can see, I am passionate to see the future of these changes and how they will influence us. But most importantly, I want to follow the path that will lead me to the answer of the question: will we reach a point of singularity?
How did your background help you with your search on the effectiveness of rapid technology changes?
At first, I just wanted to make the internet faster and faster, so during by PhD in Laser Physics-fiber Optic Communication, I was experimenting with different types of lasers in fiber-optics communication systems. It was a great opportunity for me to put my academic and deeply theoretical knowledge into practice.
In 1999, I started my full time job at a US based IT company and in 2005, I moved to the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) as an information security specialist. After just 6 months, I became the senior administrator of Information security. My main focus was the implementation of ISO 27001 standard in my institution and I’m happy to say that CBA is now certified. The truth is that having a pure academic knowledge is not enough to make you a good leader. You need to communicate the technical issues to the board and the CEO in the best way possible.
When, in 2007, I was promoted to the Head of IT Audit Division, it was clear to me that I had to take my personal development to the next level. My manager always challenged me to think outside the box and to stop focusing only on the technical issues. With already more than 15 scientific articles published in well-known journals such as Optics Communication, Modern Optics, Lightwave Technology etc., I attended the Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, to study Public Policy and Public Administration. There I begun to comprehend the true challenge of every good leader: managing people, developing a good cost-benefit analyses and making the best decision for your team.
So how does an audit or a cyber attack have the same thrill as skiing?
I love this question! Frankly speaking, skiing looks like dealing with cyber threats 🙂 Imagine being on the top of a mountain, skiing. After just a few minutes, your speed can reach more than 100km/h. Now picture that you are surrounded by children, beginners, and people fooling around.
The same happens with cyber threats. There are children using smartphones without any knowledge of privacy or security. And then there are professionals, well informed and trained against cyber-attacks. But what happens when your son takes your phone to check his favorite cartoon online and opens a spam email?
Except of people not being careful with their snowboards, what was the biggest challenge you had to face so far in your career?
I love challenges. You should challenge yourself to move forward, to go to the next level of your career and your personal life too.
In 2012, when I decided to study in Tufts University, I had to overcome my biggest setback on my candidacy. My English score was not good enough and my background was not relevant.
Instead of giving up, I decided to prove them wrong and NOT FAIL. After the first exam, which was Public Finance, my score was A- while other candidates, with background in finance, got B or even B-. I worked hard and I succeeded and this lesson taught me to never give up.
Can you elaborate a bit more on your presentation? What’s the #1 key takeaway?
During my presentation, I’ll talk about public Wi-Fi’s which are popular worldwide and some countries are competing on who will offer the best free Wi-Fi to their citizens and tourists. So far, Lithuania is leading the race.
But are citizens and tourists aware of the risks while connecting to a public hotspot? For the “bad guys”, it does not require a big effort to steal your sensitive information while you use free Wi-Fi, without appropriate knowledge, tools and solutions.
The #1 takeaway is a simple as this:
The rest during my presentation.
Komitas will attend the CyberCentral Conference in Prague. You?
Learn more about the program, speakers and topics, request your agenda and identify the sessions you want to focus on. But don’t stall. Reserve your seat today and pre-register for our workshops. In the meantime, join our online community on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. We’ll keep you posted.