"Educating through a hands-on approach is more effective in the long run" - Interview with Sharon Knowles from Da Vinci Forensics

[eForensics Magazine]: Hello Sharon, how have you been doing? Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

[Sharon Knowles]: Good Day Readers, we are a Cyber Security Company based in South Africa, work worldwide, and I am the lucky person that heads up this company. I am passionate about the digital world, love to learn new things and I'm ready to do anything that doesn’t include insects of any kind.

[eFM]: Can you tell us something about Da Vinci Foundation?

[SK]: The Da Vinci Foundation is a non-profit organisation (still waiting for our number) that assists schools, organisations, housewives, and the elderly with education around cybersecurity, bullying, stalking and how to protect themselves.

[eFM]: Which group is the most vulnerable, in your opinion?

[SK]:  I have a mixed response as the kids are so vulnerable to cyber-bullying and sexual predators, but more and more women are being targeted via social media platforms and they do not report it to the authorities.

[eFM:] Do you provide those groups and institutions with tools and techniques or is it more like a lecture about good practices?

[SK:]  We do provide these groups with some tools and techniques that they can use to protect themselves.  Educating  through a hands-on approach is more effective  in the long run. It also varies according to which group or institution that requests assistance.

[eFM]: How does it differ from Da Vinci Forensics and Cybercrime Specialists?

[SK]: Da Vinci Forensics is the business arm, we are a company that will assist you in setting up your cyber security system, assist you if you have had a breach, educate and train staff and executives. We offer solutions that ensure your business is protected and that you do not need to worry. Our solutions vary as every business is different, also we do not limit ourselves to big organisations but assist the one man entrepreneur as well.

[eFM]: What are you focused the most on in the Foundation?

[SK]: Education is the primary focus and then assisting those most vulnerable after the event. (Bullying, stalking, harassment).

[eFM]: How people can learn about you and your initiative? For example, if I’m a victim of cyberbullying how should I contact you and what kind of help can you offer?

[SK]: We are on various social media sites, and on our website (https://davinciforensics.co.za) (http://davincifoundation.org.za), we monitor our pages and answer all messages.  

[eFM]: Are you working only in South Africa or worldwide? Why this region?

[SK]: We are based in South Africa but assist organisations worldwide.  South Africa is still an “emerging” country when it comes to cyber security and we wanted to be part of the emerging force that will deal with this “new” threat, assisting with education and promoting safe security practices.

[eFM]: What is the most popular Da Vinci company's service?

[SK]:  As you can see, we offer varied services but our anti-phishing solution is in great demand.  Most social engineering attacks involve some sort of phishing. We evaluate the human element through various methodologies. Organisations compliment us on how this changes the way they do business, their staff are more educated and high-risk departments learn how to identify the phishing risk.

[eFM]: What do you think is the biggest challenge in the cybersecurity world?

[SK]: I think for South Africa it is the increasing connectivity to the internet, and as more people get access to smart devices that are internet enabled, their cyber safety knowledge is  very limited and are vulnerable to various cyber crimes.

[eFM]: Your background is in business and marketing. Why have you decided to begin your adventure in the digital forensics world? How is it to be a woman in this very masculine industry?

[SK]: It is tougher as a woman as the challenges are different.  Women are treated differently in many cultures and you have to rise to the challenge. I enjoy the digital world and after completing my Executive MBA here in Cape Town, I decided to follow the dream.  While being in big business, I always gravitated towards ensuring cyber safety.  All spheres of business are tied together and cyber security is the thread that runs through all of them. I use my skills in these areas to ensure that we get our customers focused on the right areas.

[eFM]: Are there are any challenges you had to face as a woman in the tech industry?

[SK]: I think the biggest challenge is to be appreciated for the insight you bring to the business and that, as a woman, you can run a business just as well.

[eFM]: What are the challenges your company has been recently facing?

[SK]: I think our biggest challenge is the business budget of organisations. Cyber Security has to become a set feature on the budget and funds allocated. When an organisation is breached, they dip into the marketing budget because they have not allocated funds towards cyber security.

[eFM]: What are your plans for the future?

[SK]: Our plans are to open a Da Vinci Forensics office in Amsterdam and one in France.  To be successful and partner with some of the global corporations, protecting and advising them on all cyber issues.

We hope to raise enough financing for the The Da Vinci Foundation through sponsorship and donations so we can buy a mobile home unit, outfitted with technology, so that we can travel around South Africa to schools and retirement homes and educate about cyber crime.

[eFM]: Do you have any piece of advice for our readers?

[SK]: Cyber security is an interesting world but also dangerous. Cyber criminals are becoming younger and younger as technology evolves and it is easy to get sucked in. Educate yourselves and always be an example.

Sharon Knowles is the CEO of Da Vinci Forensics and has over 20 years multi-channel experience in the retail and e-commerce industries spanning the areas of business management, marketing and fraud prevention. She holds an Executive MBA from the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town.  
Da Vinci Forensics is a cyber security company based in South Africa and offers managed cyber security solutions to companies world-wide.  She is the co-founder of the Da Vinci Foundation, an organisation established to ensure the cybersecurity readiness and response of public and private sector entities, including schools through education and communal activities.
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July 10, 2017
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