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Case Study: Intelligence Expert Stephen Komorek on Why a Business Without Secure Communication Isn’t Secure at All

SECUSUITE / 09.30.20 / David Wiseman

Stephen Komorek is no stranger to the threat of digital surveillance. A highly experienced Security and Investigations professional, he’s dealt with government corruption, counterintelligence, espionage, human trafficking, organized crime, and more. He holds multiple certifications in technology and intelligence, is a former United States Army Veteran, and serves as the acting Sergeant at Arms for the World Association of Detectives.

He has applied this vast experience and expertise to great effect in his position as the United States Operations Director for Conflict International. Leveraging a vast network of contacts, he conducts high-profile special and private investigations for government, private, and corporate clients alike. And through both his investigations and his extensive knowledge of computers and electronics, he’s noticed a troubling trend.

Many organizations either overlook the threat of surveillance, or do not fully understand it.

“Especially in recent years, signal intelligence capabilities have gone through the roof,” explains Komorek. “A lot of people don’t realize how exposed they actually are. Surveillance tools are both incredibly advanced and increasingly easy to come by, and bad actors exist in abundance – state, non-state, and corporate alike.”

“That’s not even going into how unsecure consumer chat applications like WhatsApp and Signal are,” he continues. “Most countries now have direct access to communications on these platforms. Even corporations can gain that access if they team up with someone from the intelligence field.”  

This is an issue that we at BlackBerry have spoken of on multiple occasions. Most of the communications platforms currently used in the enterprise are inherently insecure, lacking end-to-end encryption, built atop unreliable infrastructure, or laden with vulnerabilities. Moreover, even those organizations that do use secure chat often don’t bother encrypting voice communications.

“There are multiple layers of risk where unsecure communications are concerned,” says Komorek. “Everything from economic theft to corporate espionage to personnel being in harm’s way. This is especially prevalent if you’re dealing with sensitive information or working in the corporate security, intelligence, or diplomatic field.”

“We saw it in 2016, with the spy van in Cypress,” Komorek notes. “We saw it last year, when WhatsApp was targeted by an advanced surveillance attack. And we’re seeing it right now, as countries engage in espionage against one another in an effort to steal coronavirus research.”   

An organization is only ever as secure as its weakest link. This means that if your staff regularly communicates sensitive information and shares sensitive assets over an unencrypted line, it doesn’t matter how impenetrable your perimeter is. You are not secure.

“People are actively targeting unencrypted communication,” says Komorek. “At Conflict International, we run operations all over the world, from Africa to the Eastern European Blocs to Asia. We cannot afford to have those team members compromised or put client data at risk – it simply cannot happen.”

To ensure its highly-distributed staff can remain securely in contact, Conflict International relies on BlackBerry® SecuSUITE®. A high-security encryption tool certified to meet the highest security requirements, SecuSUITE layers industry-leading security atop off-the-shelf devices. It’s easy to both deploy and use, requiring no specialized hardware and equipment, which is invaluable in the intelligence space.

“The best, most secure communication is and always will be face-to-face,” Komorek concludes. “But that’s not always feasible, especially for international organizations. Businesses need to perform a thorough risk and vulnerability assessment where their communications infrastructure is concerned because otherwise, they cannot say they are secure.”

Read the full case study to learn more about how Conflict International is using SecuSUITE. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more at BlackBerry Security Summit on October 6-7 at our “Protect Mobile Communications with BlackBerry® SecuSUITE®” session.

Join us at BlackBerry Security Summit:

David Wiseman

About David Wiseman

Vice President Secure Communications, BlackBerry

David Wiseman is the head of BlackBerry's Secure Communications business unit, providing secure mobile voice communications for North American governments, with responsibility for sales, marketing and partnerships.