Q&A: Raef Meeuwisse

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Raef Meeuwisse is a successful author in the fields of cybersecurity and social engineering. Raef’s titles include the global best-seller Cybersecurity for Beginners, the frequently evolving Cybersecurity to English Dictionary and How to Hack a Human, an exploration of how easily humans can be controlled and influenced. His experience includes running large security budgets, consulting on security at over 50 different organizations, designing a multimillion-pound security software platform, training as a hypnotist (yes, you read that correctly) and occasionally flying helicopters

What was your route into the information security industry?

I found things I was passionate about doing that were a good fit with my natural abilities. That eventually led me into this discipline. I started out as an account relationship manager because I like interacting with people – and that taught me effective communication and presentation skills. I became the manager of a division of a national company which required me to learn effective business planning and implementation. I stepped across into technology projects and then program management some years later, because I enjoyed planning and implementation and used to build computers in my spare time.

Whats the most interesting thing about information security?

For me, the most fascinating aspect of infosec is that the line between protection and exploitation is very narrow; regardless of what side you are on, the tools you use can be repurposed by your opponent.

What is also a constant source of amazement is that the never-ending stream of cyber-attacks read like the implausible plotlines from second-rate soap operas. It is an ever-changing industry of contradictions, full of grey areas where you can never be certain who the good and bad actors are – or what will happen next.

What would be your dream job?

An Actor. When I was a child, I was going to be Jesus. In 1977, my mother (who was an actress) took me to London to audition for the part of young Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth. I nearly got the part. I totally bombed an ad audition for a new brand of chocolate and hazelnut spread a few years later – partly because I explained to the casting panel that although I was happy to do the lines, they would need a double if anyone had to eat the stuff.

Whats the greatest challenge facing the infosec industry today?

The most significant challenge is the speed of technological change. This rate of evolution means that threats can emerge too fast for traditional approaches to security management to handle. The result is that effective cybersecurity now requires a significant amount of reliable automation, a security-by-design approach and for security leadership to use lean engineering to cope with processing the amount of information and instructions required to secure each digital landscape.

Quick-fire Q&A

Whats your favorite book?

The Stainless-Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. Although it was written in the late 1950s, it was ahead of its time. It opens with the death of a police robot at the hands of the central character.

Whats your guilty pleasure?

Difficult to choose just one. I would have to go with very occasionally eating very high-fat, salty, Chinese food.

Who was your idol growing up?

This is embarrassing. Probably Michael J Fox. I was really short until I was 16 (155cm) and there are photos of me at that time in a body warmer like the one he wore in Back to the Future. All the girls seemed to really like him and his comedic delivery was excellent – I wanted to be like that.

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