Getting to know you: David Benford

What do you currently do?

I am director and principal consultant of cyber-security and digital forensic specialists Blackstage Forensics. We provide training and consultancy on risks from social media, Internet and smart devices to organisations and high-profile people.

Thanks to the rapid evolution of how people share personal information through social media and smart devices, many criminals across the world have quickly utilised this for their own benefit. Individuals, whether employees or sub-contractors, are being targeted to blackmail or extort, giving criminals leverage for gaining access to an organisation’s property, information, equipment or sensitive data. The list is endless but is easily accessed by them through clever social engineering.

A major area of risk is linked to geo-locational data created by smart devices. It is so easy to link an employee’s workplace with their home, along with then discovering details of their family to add to the risk. Not only is this creating holes in the security of organisations, reputational risks are also increasing and higher profile people are becoming more visible to the press; especially with the forthcoming changes to searches within Facebook. We deliver training and consultancy on these risks and their mitigation to police, diplomats, companies and large institutions, such as the European Commission and the Council of Europe. We also teach open source intelligence (OSINT) methods to the private and public sectors.

What is your inspiration in the business?

Our work in this area of risk and cybercrime is well timed and the speed of change in these emerging media and technologies is challenging but fascinating. I find it very exciting working inside the European governmental institutions. It can sometimes feel a bit surreal but also enthralling. Speaking alongside Europol recently at the ECSA Counterterrorism conference at the Egmont Palace in Brussels was one the highlights for me. Emerging technologies are bringing with them brand new security threats and I find this very engaging. It is vital that companies and governmental institutions are kept up-to-date and are prepared for these technologies and their associated risks.

Who do you admire?

I am parent of a child with cystinosis, as well as being a trustee of the Cystinosis Foundation UK. The people I admire most are the medical experts, such as paediatric nephrologists, who provide care and treatment for our very sick children, not forgetting other specialists who are dedicated to treating other rare conditions.

On the business side, I admire those that have started a business alone, which has gone on to flourish and become a great success. Their effort, dedication and persistence is always impressive.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?

I have few regrets about anything I have done. If I had taken any different paths earlier in my life, then things may have turned out differently, but not necessarily for the better. I am totally passionate about my work, to the point where, in some ways, it doesn’t feel like work because of how much I enjoy it.

What defines your way of doing business?

I am a very honest and sincere person and I’d like to think that this comes across well to our clients. I am very much a “people person” and I enjoy bouncing ideas off others, but I am always very careful to give credit to others where it is due. We always make a somewhat complicated and technical subject understandable for our clients, and I am a strong believer in building strong and open relationships with customers. Strong client relationships and excellent customer service are the key to successful business development!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

My advice would be to have a good grasp of customer service concepts and always aim to exceed clients’ expectations. I also believe that, in many cases, breaking a profit takes a lot longer than you initially anticipate. Be prepared to work long hours and cement strong bonds between your suppliers and your clients. Finally, be prepared to communicate with people of all levels and don’t be intimidated by power.

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