September 24, 2020updated 29 Sep 2020 4:10pm

CTO Talk: Q&A with RiskIQ’s Adam Hunt

By Robert Scammell

Adam Hunt is the CTO of RiskIQ, a cybersecurity company that specialises in attack surface intelligence.

The San Francisco-based company is known for leading the fight against Magecart, the cybercriminal group behind the British Airways and Ticketmaster hacks.

At RiskIQ, Hunt leads the data science, data engineering and research teams. Their focus is on automating the detection of adversarial attacks across disparate digital channels, including email, web, mobile, and social media. He has received patents for identifying new external threats using machine learning.

In this Q&A, the 36th in our weekly series, Hunt discusses the cyber threats of remote working, working at the Large Hadron Collider and unwinding on mountain bike trials.

Rob Scammell: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Adam Hunt: My experience analysing and managing huge data sets started in graduate school, where I was part of the Large Hadron Collider. I’ve been with RiskIQ for almost seven years. I started at the company as a research engineer and data scientist, tasked with making the research team more effective through tools, data analysis and machine learning. I moved from that position into management by becoming the chief data scientist. My responsibilities continued to expand into data engineering and architecture, which led me to my current role.

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

Although many of us have been working from home for quite some time, the pandemic has forced many more to blur the lines between their home and office. This creates many challenges from communication and management to security.

Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?

Threat Intelligence Platforms are evolving quickly. The era of data aggregation is waning and they will soon be eclipsed by tools that provide insights and the ability to share knowledge about current threats. The goal of these platforms to make entry-level security analysts look like seasoned professionals will make significant progress over the next year.

How do you separate hype from disruptor?

A lot of technologies promise that they can do the job of a human, but that isn’t true in security and data science. There are certainly products that can help these individuals filter out the noise.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?

Our CEO told me on my first day that “cybersecurity is not a problem to be solved, but a game to be played.” I’m not sure where he heard that, but it stuck with me.

Where did your interest in tech come from?

My dad introduced me to computers and programming at a young age. I still remember when he brought home our first 286.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sometime between 4am and 6am, I wake up and check on the system and catch up on email, Jira and Slack. After that, I find time to focus on personal projects before a my usual day of meetings and interruptions.

What do you do to relax?

As a person that finds it hard to disconnect from work, cycling forces me to unplug. On most days, you can find me on the trails with my mountain bike, sweating through a tough interval session on my trainer or grinding out a long ride on my road bike. It’s pretty easy to tell when I haven’t had the chance to get out in a couple of days.

Who is your tech hero?

My dad was my hero growing up. He could fix anything. People admired him for his ability to solve problems and used to tell me that he was the smartest person they knew. His passion for solving hard problems certainly had a strong influence. I’ve pursued challenges my entire career and some of the most interesting and dynamic challenges have presented themselves in cybersecurity.

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

Safe and secure access to the internet for everyone. This is true during today’s health crisis more than ever. With so many students learning from home, the lack of reliable internet access has the potential to create an even wider gap in our educational system.


Read more: CTO Talk: Q&A with Software AG’s Bernd Gross