Rosa Smothers, SVP at KnowBe4. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

Former CIA Officer Combats Social Engineering Scams At Civilian And Military Agencies

Rosa Smothers, SVP at KnowBe4, leverages her knowledge on the inner workings of the U.S. government

Steven T. Kroll

Northport, N.Y. – Mar. 21, 2019

Social engineering is one of the biggest cyberthreats that U.S. federal agencies face, but there’s a new sheriff in town to help change that.

Rosa Smothers took a path different from most people to the upper echelons of cybersecurity. She started out as a sales engineer — and then was a technical intelligence officer at the CIA for over a decade, also doing a rotation at the National Security Agency.

As the current SVP of Cyber Operations at KnowBe4, Smothers oversees the Federal Practice efforts, which provide cybersecurity services to civilian and military agencies within the federal government, according to the website

I’m a “believer in security awareness training and ongoing social engineering testing because I’ve seen for myself the significance of that and why we need it for national security,” says Smothers.

For those of you who don’t know, social engineering is the practice of manipulating an end user into providing network access to hackers through phone call scams, phishing, and outright fraud. It’s a simple technique — and easily preventable.

Smothers offers some pretty clear advice for upcoming security challenges.

“I think technical people are thinking about technical solutions,” says Smothers. “The most obvious problem, which is the social engineering resulting in breaches, is not what’s being resolved.” She adds, “Upwards of 90-plus percent of breaches on networks are from some sort of social engineering effort.” And that’s where she comes in.

Over the course of her career, Smothers has seen a lot of changes in the industry — especially when it comes to women. “I started out often being the only woman in the room. And now I’m seeing not only more women in the room, but also women of color.” The benefit of solving problems with diverse perspectives was a lesson she learned at the CIA, and she’s happy to have this same experience in her role at KnowBe4.

Who do you want to provide security awareness training and social engineering testing in the future? My money is on Smothers because of her diverse background, broad experience, and expert knowledge of not only the technical problems but also the human ones.

Steven T. Kroll is a public relations specialist and staff writer at Cybercrime Magazine.