It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense.  An adage that Gaetano DiNardi discovered the hard way. 

Gaetano started his career as a songwriter and a producer in New York City.  His client collaborators included musical sensations Fat Joe and Shaggy, among others.  Blogging about how to license music and monetize music gave way to deep expertise in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).   As he tuned in to his audience through social media and web site traffic, he consciously composed a perfect harmony between his love of publishing value added content and his marketing expertise.

He made his debut in the tech world leading high performance marketing teams at fast growing tech companies like Pipedrive, and Nextiva.  Despite discovering his passion and his purpose, he realized he was feeling burned out.  Pressing pause and a change of scenery became his top priority.

That’s when he took a life changing vacation.

Walking through the streets of Mexico, Gaetano recalls a feeling of ease.  Brilliant colors and bold flavors refreshed and restored him.  Until one mindless movement snapped him into active awareness.  He stuck his hand in his pocket.

“You know that sinking feeling?  When you check your pockets – but your phone isn’t there?” he recalls.  “That was me in Mexico when I discovered my phone was gone.  Imaging being outside of your home country with no phone.  No access to emails, calls, text messages, travel applications, finances, or the ability to contact anyone to help.”

Gaetano began to picture the worst.  He raced back to his hotel and frantically found another device.  The damage he discovered was severe.  Amidst his adrenaline-fueled commute, thieves had already used his unlocked mobile phone to hack his email accounts and change his passwords, accessed and copied his entire Google drive to alternate devices, accessed his bank accounts and wired over $12,000 out. 

In an instant, he lost access to his entire life.

He is not alone.  There are nearly 5.3 billion unique mobile phone users in the world today, according to the latest data from GSMA Intelligence. Mobile security threats are on the rise: Mobile devices now account for more than 60 percent of digital fraud, from phishing attacks to stolen passwords.

“I felt helpless and violated,” he emphasizes.  “Also panic.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Paranoia.  Depression.  Disbelief.  Shock.  Anger.  Frustration.  Guilt. Identity theft suddenly became a real threat.  It was no longer something that happened to someone else.  The threat of losing my entire identity became personal and real.”

From Crisis to Calling

The incident gave him pause.  And over time to a bigger sense of purpose.  “How could I contribute to creating a safer internet and increased security for everyone?”

That’s how he found his way to his current role leading Marketing for Aura, a company committed to help consumer do everything online safely.  “The average consumer has at least 90 online accounts and spends an average of six hours a day online,” Gaetano explains, “which leaves lots of back doors open for people with ill intent targeting identities of children and adults alike. ” 

The FTC cites a 73% Y/Y increase in identity theft and cites the pandemic as a primary catalyst for spikes in phishing, robocalls and social media scams.  And consumers lost an estimated $56B last year to phishing scams.

For Gaetano, these statistics represent an opportunity for impact.  “I’ve invested my entire marketing career promoting technology, but I’ve never felt so closely aligned with a company’s mission before,” he enthuses.  “Now I help safeguard for others what I temporarily lost – peace of mind.  And that fills me with a sense of purpose. I market what matters.”

Gaetano offers words of wisdom based on his lessons learned:

·       Set your iPhone to auto-lock after 30 seconds of stalled screen use. 

·       Don’t store any sensitive passwords in Google Chrome or Safari Keychain. 

·       Use Google Authenticator or Okta for Two Factor Authentication (2FA) instead of SMS, when possible. 

·       Use Face ID for as many online services as possible. 

·       Choose a strong, unique password for every online service you use. 

·       Ideally, use a secure password manager that streamlines everything. 

·       Add a backup trusted phone number to your Apple account – this way, if your iPhone ever gets stolen and your Apple account is compromised, you can recover it quickly. 

·       Always keep your OS updated to the most recent version. When you are prompted to update your software, always DO IT. 

·       Use a secure device like the Nano Ledger X to store the bulk of your crypto assets. 

·       Use a secure VPN – especially if you are browsing the web on public Wi-Fi.

·       Be vigilant when it comes to monitoring your credit profile – if you find any unwanted inquiries, it may be a warning sign. 

·       Regularly monitor your online banking statements and credit card activity for suspicious charges. 

·       Stay aware of data breaches with online services that you use. For example, Robinhood was recently hacked, which impacted 7 million customers.