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Behind this Greenville cybersecurity company’s plan to change the world

Krys Merryman //April 25, 2023//

Behind this Greenville cybersecurity company’s plan to change the world

Krys Merryman //April 25, 2023//

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While hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent building cybersecurity fortresses such as “strong” firewalls, this Greenville cybersecurity company focuses on making people laugh with the use of short videos.

Hook Security was founded four years ago after co-founder Adam Anderson, who had spent 20 years as a cybersecurity entrepreneur, realized 100% of his customers still got hacked. All that money was being spent to build those “fortresses” to protect them from cybersecurity threats but breaches continued. He sold his previous cybersecurity company to start Hook, which is a new take and concept on how to approach cybersecurity.

“When we started Hook Security, I really wanted to solve a problem,” Anderson said. “I wanted to have impact. What I didn’t want to do was create another company that sold fear.”

Ninety percent of cyberattacks come through socially manipulating the human behind the keyboard, Anderson said.

He hired a consultant and developed a new field of study called psychological security, which is all about neurons, Anderson said. Hook was founded to be the “tip of the spear” to figuring out how to build resilient minds to protect against that manipulation.

Anderson said he banned his 14-year-old daughter from social media such as Instagram, because she hasn’t developed the ability resist manipulation through online sites she trusts, but shouldn’t.

“We know we have done our job right if five to 10 years from now Hook Security has developed new psychological and neuroscience technologies to make sure humans can’t be manipulated online,” he said. “And that gets back into important issues such as human trafficking. To me, this is more important than selling more firewalls.”

Recognizing cyber threats through humor

Hook Security Inc. in Greenville was one of the top 10 startup finalists at the 7th annual Next Venture Summit in September.

It teaches nontechnical users to recognize cybersecurity threats and attacks through humorous training experiences. This next-level cybersecurity is more geared toward psychological security and is meant to retrain the brain to detect manipulation and give time to process versus just reacting to a phishing threat. The content length is short and entertaining to allow consumers to digest easier while remaining safe from cyberattacks.

Adam Anderson is the co-founder of Greenville-based Hook Security.“Makes learning about cybersecurity worthwhile,” said Anderson. “Moving from fear-based to humor-based security has been key for Hook.”

With approximately 17 employees, offices not only in Greenville but in Florida and Pennsylvania, Hook Security already has made a national and international cybersecurity impact.

“We are getting a lot of momentum outside of the U.S.,” said Anderson. “That’s a really cool problem to solve, because it’s a global digital economy and if your supply chain starts in Southeast Asia and you’re only serving customers in the United States, you’ve already lost.”

Also, as the chief strategy officer of Hook, Anderson said he is always focused on where the company is going.

“There are three target markets I’m really excited about,” he said. “First one is the space industry, second is the manufacturing supply chain, and third is K through 12 education.”

Especially K-12 education, Anderson said, because there isn’t enough being done to protect children against online predators.

“I will change the world and make it a safer place if I can make our kids safer, and they can grow up with good cyber hygiene and cyber awareness, with the ability to identify predators and not be manipulated by them,” he said.

Based on the tenets of psychological security

He said many companies exist below a “cyber poverty line,” where the things they need to be secure are too expensive. Those companies get pushed out of the supply chain because of security issues, he said. And Hook addresses that issue by offering affordable low-cost cybersecurity solutions for small-to-mid-size markets that also work at the enterprise level, he added.

The videos are a three-part system, Anderson said. Every video filmed is based on the tenets of psychological security. Fear creates a cortisol reaction in the brain — fight or flight. The first thing Hook does to create a “psychologically safe” environment is to send a dopamine hit to the consumer’s brain. That involves telling jokes, making their videos funny enough that the consumer mindfully becomes available for learning.

“Nobody has ever taken neuroscience and psychology and put it into cyber before, so we are making strides to be more impactful in what we do but there’s still so much room for growth,” said Anderson.

Anderson said Hook Security is what it is today because he brought on co-founder and CEO Zach Eikenberry and third co-founder Brad Powell, who has handled sales.

Eikenberry had the skillset to revolutionize training in schools with children and that also works in corporate America, Anderson said.

Hook Security was founded four years ago in Greenville.“Really quickly, the vision of Hook went from what did Adam want to what did Zach discover,” he said.

The industry treats people like computers, as if they are a company’s weakest link, Anderson said.

Hook differs by treating people like a company’s biggest asset, he said.

“The act of training people makes them afraid of their inbox, and if you’re entire life is in your email, we are training people to be terrified of being in their email,” Anderson said. “So, you have all these amazing potential people, and they don’t have access to their creativity, because every time they go to check their email they are scared.”

Hook wants people to look forward to this concept rather than fear it, said Anderson.

“I can’t change the world and make it a better place and give everyone access to this amazing thing we are building if people can’t trust each other online,” said Anderson. “I’m passionate about cyber awareness training, because I’m passionate about people being able to trust each other.”

Nearly 200,000 people use their platform, and if Hook can move those clients from an 80% chance they’ll click on a phishing attack or other cybersecurity threat to 5%, then Hook’s economic impact includes all the losses that were deferred for all those clients: about a billion-dollar economic impact based on all Hook clients and their revenue. Millions on a local level to billions on a macro level, said Anderson.

“We are tripling in size year after year,” he said. “Customers are impressed with how easy the concept is and had no idea they could even have fun with this type of cybersecurity while protecting their businesses. It’s important for people to understand what Hook’s doing, so even if they don’t do business with us, they know how to hold the rest of the industry accountable.”