My favorite quote is: "Courage, my friends; 'tis not too late to build a better world." - Tommy Douglas My pet peeve is: When people use overly complicated language
A human approach to cybersecurity
DISCOVERING YOUR CALLING. The foundation of Leigh Honeywell's business is a problem space she fell into by accident. Her company, Tall Poppy, is a service that helps companies protect their employees from online harassment and abuse. It was an issue she found herself dealing with early in her career – at a job at an antivirus company, and when she went back to school to complete her computer science degree.
"I had this odd experience of being one of the few visible women in cybersecurity. People would just come to me and say they were dealing with a stalking situation, or somebody hacked into their accounts, and I would do my best to help. Over the years, I became this one-woman helpline for many different folks, from whistleblowers to activists and journalists dealing with personal cybersecurity threats."
Subsequent roles in cybersecurity at Microsoft and Salesforce, where she protected corporate infrastructure, taught her there was a clear need for these services to protect people's personal lives and online accounts, particularly those in marginalized groups. "Online harassment is not an evenly distributed problem. It disproportionately affects underrepresented people, including LGBTQ folks, people of color, women, and non-binary folks."
The name "Tall Poppy" comes from the cultural phenomenon 'tall poppy syndrome', a phrase commonly used in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia to describe someone who deliberately puts down another for their success and achievements. "We aim to protect the tall poppies. We want to say, 'Hey, you want to do something meaningful and powerful and visible, and we want you to feel safe doing so.'"
SECURITY TOOLS BUILT FOR UNDERSERVED PEOPLE. Leigh is keen to emphasize the human aspect of Tall Poppy and cybersecurity. On one end, some humans formulate these practices and put them into action; on the other, there are humans who are affected by a hack or doxing attack. As a bisexual woman who considers herself incredibly fortunate to have grown up in an LGBTQIA+ affirming household, she believes Tall Poppy can build tools that can serve both the queer community and the wider population. With the company expanding its staff, Leigh can now identify other spaces within their ecosystem that need support.
"We've done extensive work supporting people who've come forward as #metoo whistleblowers, plaintiffs in high-profile employment discrimination cases, and high-profile civil rights organizations. We're building defensive tools and we're deliberately not a surveillance company. There's plenty of work to do with folks who share our values. If we can reduce the burden to those victims, I consider that a big success.
"We built Tall Poppy to serve a need that we saw disproportionately harming underrepresented people, but it turns out this is something everybody needs, too."