22 Feb Women In Cybersecurity: Las Vegas Hacker Vs. The Ghost
Alissa Valentina Knight aims to knock out industry ignorance
Northport, N.Y. – Feb. 22, 2021
Wearing a white hat and fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada, Alissa Valentina Knight is one of the web’s mightiest heroes. Since being arrested at 17 for hacking into a government network, she has been reformed, fighting now for good instead of evil.
Having suffered that one defeat as an amateur, Knight is a confident and witty cybersecurity influencer, content creator, and entrepreneur. She has worked with many top cyber-communities and U.S. government agencies since turning pro, but her road to success hasn’t always been smooth.
As a lesbian, transgender woman in a notoriously male-dominated industry, Knight has paved the way for a marginalized group in cybersecurity. Despite an impressive scorecard, she continues to face off against arrogant challengers, ferociously standing up for her most integral beliefs with sheer determination.
“There’s a widespread belief out there that we need to combat, as women, that cybersecurity isn’t for us,” says Knight in an interview on Cybercrime Magazine’s podcast. “That’s the ghost that I’m out there fighting every day.”
Citing a viral Twitter thread that gained her nearly three thousand followers, the published author recognized her duty to speak out against industry ignorance.
Afterward, Knight’s social media influence underwent a fundamental shift. She once avoided addressing her LGBTQ affiliation, but could no longer do so in the wake of a dramatic increase in transgender youth suicides.
“I really didn’t want me being trans to be the issue,” admits Knight, describing how success ultimately changed her stance.
“Trans youth: here I am! I’m trans and look at all of these accomplishments; look at what I’ve done despite the fact that I’m trans,” Knight comforts. “If I can affect just one life positively, then I wanted to do that.”
Reflecting on being transgender, the super-hacker feels it has provided her with a uniquely insightful perception of the industry. By living life as two separate genders, she has been enlightened of more than just the difference between male and female restrooms.
Knight is, of course, referring to the alarming gender wage gap. Despite the progress already made, there is still much to be done. In 2020, women earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to PayScale.com.
“As a man, I was aware of the wage disparity posters that hung in the breakrooms of companies and the fact that women were paid less than men, but how many men can actually experience that?” she poses. “Who can go from walking into a job offer countering and not expect to be countered or negotiated, to being a woman and trying to negotiate your salary and the person looking at you like you have four eyes?”
Knight didn’t let this frustrating statistic dissuade her. Like so many other times, she was only further motivated to reign supreme, assuredly calling it “fuel.”
This fuel hasn’t failed her yet. Knight is the community manager as a partner at Knight Ink and the group CEO of Brier & Thorn, a managed security service provider. She has also authored a book on hacking connected cars and is working on two more.
Do you think Knight’s story sounds like it ought to be on TV? You’re not alone. In an exciting turn of events, she was recently approached by producers looking to launch a series based on her life. The former black hat is currently writing the pilot-episode screenplay, hoping to see it stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime in the coming years.
So, what else could possibly be in her future? Knight has big plans, a project she fondly refers to as the “unknown surprise of 2021.” Since it can’t be announced yet, she tells us of a hashtag dedicated to her future: #ShockandAwe. Knowing Knight, we’d expect nothing less.
– Amanda Glassner is a staff writer and reporter at Cybercrime Magazine.