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Leo Taddeo studied physics at a good engineering school, but he is not your typical nerd. As a Marine Corps tank officer in Iraq, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and then he served 20 years as a special agent in charge of cybercrime for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York. He can sling tech jargon, but he also has a crystal clear sense for who the bad guys are in the constantly evolving underworld of hackers.
“The capabilities of criminal organizations are catching up with nation-states like Russia and China,” Taddeo says, calling out two countries tagged by some US government officials as perpetrators of recent cyberattacks. When hackers breached the digital vaults of Bangladesh’s central bank and made off with $81 million, some of that money “goes into research and development, and hiring programmers” to come up with the next attack, he says.
But there is a flip side: The Bangladesh incident in February, or the theft and release of Democratic National Committee e-mails and internal research documents in July, generate headlines that get everyone focused on just how vulnerable computer systems can be.
“Every day, we can just use the front page of any given newspaper as marketing material,” says Taddeo, who now serves as the chief security officer for Cryptzone, a Waltham cybersecurity startup.