Retaining the right cybersecurity expert witness is a serious undertaking, made more difficult by the technical nature of the subject matter. But beyond obvious technical knowledge and expertise, what should you be looking for in an expert that you engage?
There are several qualities a cybersecurity expert should exhibit, and that you should be able to verify through available public information and a thoughtful interview. Here are the top 5 that have proved critical.
Translating "geek speak"
Today's cybersecurity cases are detailed and technical, often relying on language that is unfamiliar to judges and juries. A cybersecurity expert witness should have the ability to translate complex technical concepts into laymen's terms without getting bogged down in the weeds of techno-babble. Ideally, an expert would also have experience as an educator, with the ability to assess the level of expertise in the room and deliver information accordingly. In these cases, the courtroom also acts as classroom where the expert is educating in addition to testifying.
Grace under pressure
With millions of dollars of settlements often at stake, the pressure from opposing counsel can be intense. A cybersecurity expert witness must remain cool, articulate, and concise. An expert should have prior experience in the courtroom, or in a similar high-pressure environment, such as the corporate boardroom. It's also as important to know when to stop talking as it is when to elaborate. Look for someone who pauses for just a moment before answering – that's someone who's considering their answer.
Scholarly body of work
The title of expert witness should be based on something other than fame, or even notoriety. Being known in the cybersecurity community isn't the same as being qualified as an expert witness. So while there may be famous hackers or even famous victims of cyber attacks, a review of their scholarly publications will quickly point to the credible claims. Look for an expert with published articles in peer-reviewed journals, or who has authored books on technical topics.
Currently engaged in cybersecurity work
Cybersecurity threats are evolving at a rapid pace and are highly sophisticated. Without being a current cybersecurity practitioner, it would be nearly impossible to keep up with the constant developments in the field. An expert who is actively engaged in cyber security consulting or who operates in a high-level security role is expanding his or her knowledge every day by being immersed on a daily basis. Make sure your chosen expert keeps a finger on the pulse of the industry.
Passion and Enthusiasm
While these traits may not seem fitting in the courtroom, a cybersecurity expert witness should exhibit a high level of enthusiasm for their chosen field, and for their role as a witness. It's that passion that fuels their drive to work hard, understand the case, and ensure the value of their testimony. Someone who is animated when speaking about cybersecurity will bring that same spark to the courtroom in a way that shines through.
As you seek to engage a cybersecurity expert witness for your next case, keep these five qualities in mind, and make sure your expert witness hits the mark.