Mastermind con man behind Catch Me If You Can talks cybersecurity (free PDF)

Frank Abagnale’s unbelievable life story was made famous in Steven Spielberg’s hit movie, Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio. His life as a con man began when he impersonated an airline pilot. TechRepublic’s Karen Roby got the chance to sit down with Frank Abagnale, the famous con man turned FBI instructor, to talk about everything from cryptocurrency to identify theft to the technology he’s most concerned about at a location he’s familiar with–an airport–the Louisville-based Bowman Field Regional Airport, more specifically.

The following is an edited transcript of their interview.

From the interview


Karen Roby: What do you tell CIOs and CEOs about cybersecurity?

Frank Abagnale: Well, first of all, I tell them that the most important thing that they have to do is educate their employees, and the most important job they have is protecting the information that’s been entrusted to them by their clients. So, that’s the most important thing.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not trained by their companies, and so they fall for phishing scams, or they fall for social engineering scams over the phone where they give away a lot of information where they shouldn’t. People are basically honest and because they’re honest, they don’t have a deceptive mind. So, when they see an email that looks very official looking, they assume that it is real.

I’ve been an instructor at the FBI Academy for 43 years. I’ve taught two generations of FBI agents who’ve gone through the academy. What’s amazing to me is how much easier crime is than when I did it 50 years ago. It’s actually 4,000 times easier because I didn’t have all of the technology that exists today. So, technology absolutely breeds crime. It always has, and there will always be people who will use technology in a negative, self-serving way.


Karen Roby: What is your take on passwords and password authentication? Where is this going because passwords aren’t getting the job done?

Frank Abagnale: Passwords are for tree houses. Passwords are 1964 technology. So, they were developed when I was 16 years old before I did any of the things I did. I just turned 71, and we’re still using passwords, and passwords are the reason we have most of the malware, ransomware, and all the things that are going on.

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