Ron Sharon

Cybersecurity and Technology Leader

2022 SIA Chair’s Award Recipient Discusses Cybersecurity Trends, Need for Diversity

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After spending 17 years working at security integration firms, Antoinette King started her own Cybersecurity consulting firm to specifically serve the physical security industry.

SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.

For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Antoinette King, founder of Credo Cyber Consulting. King is the 2022 recipient of the SIA Chair’s Award, the highest individual award presented at The Advance, SIA’s annual membership meeting at ISC West.

She was also named to the inaugural SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Antoinette King: I am one of the few people who entered into the security industry by design. My first degree was an associate degree in criminal justice, and I followed that up with a Bachelor of Science in managing security systems. At the time, I wanted to go into law enforcement, but the opportunity to work in the private sector presented itself, and 23 years later, I am still loving the industry.

My first job in the industry was as a technician for an integration company. I worked on so many amazing projects, including securing the Statue of Liberty, pulling cable, mounting devices and building out head ends. Prior to starting my own consulting firm in 2020, I spent 17 years working at security integration firms and four and a half years working for a manufacturer.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Credo Cyber Consulting was born out of the desire to serve the cybersecurity needs of the physical security industry. Securing end-point devices is an essential part of the work we do in serving the needs of the end customer for both the integrators and the manufacturers. My company was created to support the education and compliance needs of companies that are trying to improve their cybersecurity and data privacy programs. In addition to providing cybersecurity consulting services, Credo Cyber Consulting is a member of SIA and ZeroNow in an effort to give back to the communities that we serve.

What is your current position?

I am the founder of Credo Cyber Consulting. I work with organizations to improve their cybersecurity programs to become a stronger part of the overall supply chain ecosystem.

With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?

Having a diverse workforce is beneficial because working with diverse people directly correlates with having diverse ideas. People from different backgrounds, genders, races, etc., bring new perspectives to challenges that homogenous groups cannot offer. As a woman in this industry for more than two decades, I can tell you that the incredible strides we have taken have really become evident in the past several years.

We are seeing more and more women in leadership positions, and even more exciting is the number of women-owned businesses that are being formed. None of this would be possible without the incredible male allies we have in the industry who have been pushing for change. For them I am so grateful.

What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?

I think that one impediment to achieving more diversity is still the lack of confidence many women have in themselves and their own capabilities. This results in fewer women applying for leadership roles. Even in my own experience, that notion of “I have to prove myself” lingered in the back of my mind for many years. Also, despite so many amazing allies, I still see many companies in the industry that are not moving the needle when it comes to female representation in leadership roles.

It is important that existing leadership — both men and women — be opened to mentoring professional women in the industry to support their career goals. It is not enough to just create diversity programs within an organization. Organizations need to incorporate diversity into the corporate culture. Steps need to be taken to ensure that women are encouraged to apply for leadership roles, and career development opportunities need to be made available to young professionals.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are instrumental in advancing security and surveillance solutions. Included in these categories is the use of robotics to augment the staffing shortages faced by the industry.

Cybersecurity and supply chain security continue to be at the forefront of concern across all industries. Securing endpoint devices is an essential role security professionals play in the ecosystem of end customers. Manufacturers and integration firms will increasingly be asked to provide evidence of these capabilities by end customers as part of their supply chain security programs.

Data privacy remains a concern for many citizens globally. Security solutions are being scrutinized by many national, state and local governments for their potential misuse when it comes to privacy violations. The security industry needs to continue to advocate for the importance of security and surveillance technology in protecting people and property. At the same time, we need to innovate new ways to respect privacy while also protecting assets.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your space of cybersecurity consulting?

Internet of Things (IoT) security continues to be a concern for many organizations. The exploit of IoT devices remains a top attack vector for cybercriminals.

Ransomware attacks are increasingly on the rise. Organizations across all sectors are falling victim to ransomware attacks because of email compromise, phishing attacks and credential compromise. The Zero Trust model has been pushed out significantly faster than originally thought possible because of the global pandemic and the move towards borderless environments. Access control has become more role-based, rule-based and situationally based with the principle of trust no one by default.

Managed services providers and cybersecurity services are becoming more important to the overall strategy of many organizations to strengthen their cybersecurity programs resulting from the undersupply of cybersecurity talent.

As more organizations move services to the Cloud, there is an increase in Cloud security vulnerabilities being exploited. Organizations must have a thorough understanding of the roles and responsibilities securing their data in the Cloud.

What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?

As the founder of a new company, I am blessed to have found support from so many different people within the security industry and elsewhere. Getting the message out about what services Credo Cyber Consulting offers to organizations has been the top priority. Demonstrating the importance of cybersecurity as a fundamental role of the physical security professional has been challenging in some cases.

What are the biggest opportunities your company – and the industry – are seeing?

As challenging as it can be in some cases to demonstrate the importance of cybersecurity to certain organizations, many organizations get it, and getting to work with those organizations is very exciting.

Working with organizations like RAD (Robotic Assisted Devices) in bringing robotics solutions to the industry at a time when there are severe labor shortages is an exciting way to support innovation, improve working conditions for security guards and improve safety for people.

This year, Credo Cyber Consulting is focusing on supporting the cyber hygiene education of young people. Educating students in ways to securely navigate such social media and the Internet is an investment in the future of our workforce.

What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?

The SIA Women in Security Forum has done so much already to advance the lives of so many women in the security industry by providing scholarships and educational content in the support of advancing their careers. I hope that the Women in Security Forum can continue to provide these important resources for women in the industry.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

My best advice for women in the industry is to believe in yourself. Speak up and know that your voice is worthy of being heard.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

I have been very blessed to have so many supportive people in my life, but the strongest influence in my career was the chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at SUNY Farmingdale. He had the foresight in the late 1990s to see that the security and IT industry would converge and suggested that in addition to my degree in managing security systems I should focus on training in networking. It was that guidance that set me on the path of a successful 23-year career that led me to opening my own consulting firm.

How do you define success?

If I was asked how I defined success 10 years ago, my answer would be profoundly different than my answer today. Back then, I would define success by the role or status I had within the organization I was working. Today I define success as the ability to work with a mission focused mindset that aligns with your personal values. Success for me directly correlates with the satisfaction I find in the day-to-day work that I do.

What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?

Join industry associations. By getting involved in industry associations, you will broaden your network of like-minded security professionals.

Find your community, both men and women, who support you. Surrounding yourself with people who help you grow both professionally and personally will help you get through the tough times and be your best supporters when you celebrate your wins.

Seek out one or more mentors who will help you to sharpen skills that they excel in. Mentors are not one size fits all. Seek out seasoned professionals who can help you develop specific skills that will help you to achieve your professional goals.