Recently, our CPO, Renza Gruter, gave an interview to Security Innovation Stories, where she highlighted the pressing need for innovation in the security industry and emphasized the importance of adapting to the evolving relationship between technology, data, and humanity. This interview is part of an initiative created by Bram de Bruijn, that aims to provide insight into the opportunities for innovation in the cyber security sector.
“Nowadays, within our industry, we are challenged to go beyond the current thresholds to speed up innovation" says Renza Grüter, CPO of Zerocopter. And that is why innovation is so important to her. "We are too slow. Too slow. We arrived in the era of actual interaction between technology, data and humanity. Security is not only about the use of technology for prosperity, but it's also about being human. We need to be able to anticipate our new reality.”
Renza's career: From a technician with a passion for security to a CPO
Renza has been involved in technology from a young age. It started with gaming as a teenager, and at the age of 19, she began working at the helpdesk of an EDIFACT organization." Step by step, I got acquainted with business intelligence and the world of data. At the age of 31, I decided to take the leap and start studying Business Informatics. I found the security courses so fascinating that I immediately asked my then-employer (the Public Prosecution Service) if I could become a security officer. And here we are;)
Over the years, Renza has held various roles at the intersection of business and technology within the Ministry of Justice, ABN AMRO, FOX-IT, and as an independent professional, all within the security industry. She has a deep understanding of customer needs in IT security. Renza is currently working as the Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Zerocopter. Zerocopter is a marketplace that helps organizations find and fix vulnerabilities and security holes in their systems with the help of hackers. As CPO, Renza has various tasks and responsibilities: "My ultimate responsibility lies in executing our vision and mission.”
"Nowadays, within our industry, we are challenged to go beyond the current thresholds to speed up innovation. We are too slow. Far too slow."
Vision on innovation in security: Cooperation
“While Renza's daily tasks at Zerocopter involve identifying and analyzing market trends, researching the competition, developing new products and features, and overseeing development; it's also about the bigger picture: innovation. Innovation is crucial. We are on the brink of an evolution in which humans and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined. Security is about creating and maintaining trust in technology."
According to Renza, innovation has two important aspects: maintaining an open mind and the ability to anticipate reality. "We see customers struggling to choose from all security offerings in the marketspace, potentially delaying decision making or making wrong selections, which, in turn, constrains our overall progress in achieving the security posture that is required.. To avoid this, having an open mind is crucial.” The CPO also emphasizes that innovation is not solely about technology: "It's about being human. We must be able to anticipate the changing reality. Technology is just a part of it. However, nowadays, within our industry, we are challenged to go beyond the current thresholds to speed up innovation. We are too slow. Far too slow.”
When asked why this is the case, Renza responds, "I believe the slowness is caused by egos, financial incentives, and the desire for power. There are also quite a few incompetent players in the security domain, which unintentionally creates a larger attack surface for criminals. Fortunately, there is still room for us to improve."
The question then naturally arises: how can innovation be better organized at the sector level? The answer is clear: cooperation. "Within security companies, we should not view each other as competitors but as co-creators. My hope is that we can set aside the commercial perspective – the narrow or old way of thinking – and focus more on the bigger picture."
"In addition to an open mind, the ability to anticipate, and co-creation, there is another important condition for innovation: a non-conformist attitude."
Practical Example: Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure
Renza's critical views lead to the question of how Zerocopter addresses innovation. "Zerocopter works in a proactive way. We show customers that 'their door' is open, ensuring they are aware that something valuable is up for grabs. Informing and providing insight into the solution: this is what the hacker network does. For example, for our Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure solution, the point is not to break in but to simply signal that the public-facing door is wide open, even for criminals, as we speak."
In addition to an open mind and an ability to anticipate and focus on people and cooperation, Renza sees another important prerequisite for innovation: "For the hacker network, non-conformism plays an important role. With my own non-conformist attitude and people with a maverick heart around me, I can make a significant contribution to innovation and creation."
The conditions for innovation are related to the short incubation period when it comes to technological innovation. "Non-conformists will always want to make things better, because they can. That's pure innovation, if you ask me." Renza is, therefore, satisfied with the innovative power within Zerocopter itself. "In terms of innovation, my role is to translate market demand to the network and challenge hacker's innovative solutions for market fit. This living incubation mechanism works well."
Success factor: “Listen to the pain and maintain curiosity.”
Renza sees improved interaction between humans and technology not only as a prerequisite for innovation but also as one of the biggest trends in the security industry for the next 5 to 10 years. The same goes for cooperation: "We need to think less competitively. Collaboration is hopefully becoming more and more a “must” to better ensure the integrity of technology and data. I think this will also change mindset and awareness." This is important because, according to the CPO, security is about creating and maintaining trust in technology.
When asked how Renza keeps up with all these developments and other trends, she answers: “By truly listening carefully to the ‘pain’ of customers. I also stay involved in what's going on within the network. Not only to continue learning, but also to gain more expertise and expand my awareness. I hope others do that too. With an ‘I know it all’ attitude we won't get there. With a curious attitude, you continue to grow”.
“We are on the verge of an evolution in which people and technology are increasingly cooperating with each other and becoming intertwined. Security is about creating and maintaining trust in the use of technology.”
By Bram de Bruijn