Leadership & Executive Communication , Professional Certifications & Continuous Training , Training & Security Leadership

Remembering Steve King - Cybersecurity's 'Great Connector'

Former CIO, CISO, CMO and Startup Founder Leaves Legacy of Excellence in Security
Watch this video about the life and career of Steve King, managing director, CyberEd.io.

Steve King served in senior leadership roles in technology development and deployment over the past 25 years. He worked as author, serial startup founder, CIO, CTO, CISO, CMO and - most recently - a passionate campaigner for cybersecurity education at Information Security Media Group.

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King, who served as adviser, mentor and counsellor to many thought leaders in cybersecurity, died Thursday, June 27, 2024, after an illness. He was 79.

"Steve was the great connector. He knew everybody, and he connected everybody to everybody else, and that was a tremendous value to all of us," said John Kindervag, creator of zero trust and chief evangelist at Illumio.

King majored in mathematical statistics and probability at the University of California at Berkeley, and during college he learned how to write code. He got his start in the San Francisco advertising scene and later founded six technology product and services startups, raising over $40 million in venture capital.

King served as CEO, CTO and CISO for several startups and co-founded Cambridge Systems Group, which brought to market a leading information security product for IBM mainframe computers. He also worked as CIO at Memorex and CISO at Wells Fargo. An author of two books on cybersecurity, he joined ISMG in 2019 as co-founder of the CyberTheory Institute and served on the Forbes Technology Council.

"He was a renaissance man," said Sam Curry, CISO at Zscaler. "He believed in really being curious about everything. There was no subject that was off the table. Education was something that happened continuously and didn't stop. And he found other like-minded souls and bonded with them. I felt he felt ageless and timeless in some ways, and so a reminder of his mortality was really quite surprising."

At ISMG, King served as managing director of CyberTheory, building on his experience in cybersecurity and direct-to-human marketing skills to provide market strategy, positioning and messaging to leading firms. Most recently, King became the driving force behind the launch of CyberEd.io - a comprehensive cybersecurity education platform. A Certified Information Security Manager and Certified Information Systems Security Professional, he was passionate about education.

"His objective was to forget everything you knew about cybersecurity, education and awareness and rebuild it, and rebuild it in a way that wasn't just to get you to click through screens or to acquire certifications, but for you to understand the principles of cybersecurity and how you can practice these in your business and in your work," said Tom Field, senior vice president of editorial at ISMG.

ISMG CEO Sanjay Kalra remembers the job interview with King that was scheduled for 30 minutes but ended up lasting two hours. "It was evident that Steve had an immense passion for everything he did. Whether it was producing a fireside chat with an industry insider or writing a research paper, he never let convenience come ahead of what he considered an acceptable standard for himself and the teams he led at Information Security Media Group," Kalra said. "There are a very few people who transcend generations and can speak with people from all walks of life in a single conversation. Making everyone comfortable, irrespective of how little or how much they knew about a subject, was an art that Steve perfected."

Colleagues remember King as a straight shooter - someone who didn't accept the current state of cybersecurity and government oversight. He expected more.

"It's really difficult in the cybersecurity industry these days to dig below the layers. There are tremendous amounts of resistance, whether it's on the security solution side, where venture capital firms and PE firms are pushing their particular portfolio companies to manifest an image or a brand in the marketplace, but not necessarily the substance in the back end from a solution standpoint, or it's the enterprise side that refuses to consider other security frameworks or models because of the entrenched, institutionalized nature that cybersecurity now has in the corporate world. That's always what he was skeptical about, that these pieces of the machinery and cybersecurity were not aligning in a way that allowed us to be more secure," said Richard Bird, CSO at Traceable.

King championed new approaches to solving cybersecurity problems such as zero trust, artificial intelligence and - most recently - human risk management.

"He has been the catalyst to provide a lot of different thought leadership streams and just get people to stand up and fight for cybersecurity and fight for better ways of doing things," Kindervag said. "In his first career, operationally as a CISO and all the other things he did certainly made a difference, but it was that advocacy, especially in his second career with ISMG, that is going to be a lasting tribute to him."

Stephen Francis King was preceded in death by his younger son, Jon, and his parents, Frank and Gladys. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and older son, Stephen Todd, according to his obituary.

About the Author

Anna Delaney

Anna Delaney

Director, ISMG Productions

An experienced broadcast journalist, Delaney conducts interviews with senior cybersecurity leaders around the world. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of the website for The European Information Security Summit, or TEISS. Earlier, she worked at Levant TV and Resonance FM and served as a researcher at the BBC and ITV in their documentary and factual TV departments.

Cal Harrison

Cal Harrison

Editorial Director, ISMG

Harrison helps ISMG readers gain new perspectives on the latest cybersecurity trends, research and emerging insights. A 30-year veteran writer and editor, he has served as an award-winning print and online journalist, mass communication professor and senior digital content strategist for DXC Technology, where he led thought leadership, case studies and the Threat Intelligence Report for the Fortune 500 firm's global security, cloud and IT infrastructure practices.

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