Software is in Masha Sedova’s blood. Her grandmother was in the first graduating class of programmers in the Soviet Union, in the 1950s; she taught Sedova’s father to code, and he taught Masha, who moved to the U.S. at age 4. Sedova saw cybersecurity “as a large cat and mouse game,” she says, “a problem of people attacking people with technology in the middle.” The company she founded in January 2017, Berkeley, CA-based Elevate Security, helps large-scale enterprises—including Airbnb, Equifax, and a growing number of customers in pharma and biotech— secure what she calls their “human attack surface” against cyber attacks. While more than 90% of the cybersecurity industry focuses on technological solutions, “85% of cybersecurity breaches in the last year were due to the human element.” COVID has amplified the challenges, says Sedova: “Everyone’s logging into critical systems from home in pajamas, and hackers are exploiting the chaos of the pandemic to steal employee credentials and log in to sensitive accounts.” Phishing attacks are up 11% since the start of the pandemic; ransomware attacks are up 10%. And Elevate’s customer list has doubled. Building on ideas that Sedova first implemented while working at Salesforce, where she founded the company’s in-house security behavior training program, Elevate engages users of corporate networks in role playing, having them see themselves as a crafty hacker would. Since the reality is that “everyone falls for a phishing attack at some point,” Elevate helps businesses and their employees to prepare for inevitable mistakes, and encourages a culture where slipups get reported, not hidden out of shame.
Read more about Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2021