In more-than three decades as a lawyer, Simone Herbert-Lowe has witnessed in real-time how fraud has evolved from forged documents and fake signatures, often involving people who knew each other, to scams by faceless, nameless operatives in the digital world.
For 20 years, Simone worked at Lawcover – a company that provides professional indemnity insurance policies to NSW law practices. In that time, her interest moved from fraud in different types of legal transactions to cyber fraud.
“With other types of fraud in legal transactions, the parties usually know each other in some way,” she explains. “But cyber fraud can be committed by somebody on the other side of the planet against someone here in Australia.”
And it’s a growing concern. According to the latest Australia Cyber Security Centre Annual Cyber Threat Report, cybercrime reports jumped 13% in the 2020-21 financial year – that’s roughly 67,500 reports of a cyber-attack, or one every eight minutes.
To help combat the issue, today Simone runs her own business: Law & Cyber.
“I want to protect people from the consequences of cybercrime,” she says. “As I handled more of these cases at Lawcover, I realised that once the event has occurred it’s too late.”
Founded in 2018, Law & Cyber goes beyond standard legal representation. Simone and her colleagues create cyber resilience courses and tailored education programs that focus on legal liability and professional responsibility.
The company uses case studies and media articles to paint a relevant and relatable real-world picture. Simone says putting people at the heart of cyber resilience is the answer to changing behaviour.
“Criminals know it’s easier to trick somebody into opening the door to a network than it is to breach a firewall,” she says. “Most cyber-attacks start with the recipient of an email making a decision. You can’t expect a technology team to protect you from fraud when it’s not always a technology issue.”
It wasn’t until Simone completed her AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA Executive back in 2018 that she realised founding Law & Cyber was possible.
“My MBA opened doors for me that I didn’t even know were there,” she says. “It showed me I could do more than be a lawyer who focuses on claims. I’ve been able to build on my experience and use it in a different way to help people.”
From a love of law to a master of management
Simone needed convincing to get back in the classroom.
Around ten years ago, when a colleague suggested Simone pursue her MBA, she was initially only drawn to the idea once she learned she could combine her AGSM MBA with a Master of Law.
“UNSW changed the trajectory of my career by offering that rather unusual joint degree,” Simone says. “I probably wouldn’t have enrolled if not for that.”
Over the next few years, Simone chipped away at her Master of Law and Management and then an Executive MBA. And people noticed. Her CEO saw what she was doing at AGSM, and asked Simone to prepare Lawcover’s cyber risk response strategy.
“AGSM really opened the door to me being able to more strategic work. It gave the confidence to do it and showed others I could do it.”
Despite having initially returned to UNSW to pursue law, Simone found herself enjoying her management subjects. After finishing her combined MBA in 2018, she had decided to continue her studies and complete her MBA Executive.
And it was this choice that led Simone to a moment that saw her pivot her career.
During a two-week trip to South America during the International Business course, Simone and her cohort visited a chemical producer in Chile. Here, Simone learned how farmers used apps to determine where, when and how much fertiliser to deploy onto their fields based on the weather.
“That was a real lightbulb moment for me,” she says. “If farmers in rural Chile are using technology, I realised we in the legal profession could do so much more with technology too. Later as I started working in cyber education, I thought about how I could use technology to educate people, which led to me landing on online courses.”
But the MBA Executive program did much more than plant the seed of Law & Cyber. It was also crucial to nurturing the business’ growth.
Managing People and Organisations taught Simone how to choose a leadership style that suited her personality. Marketing coursework showed her the complexity and importance of getting the Law & Cyber name out there. And lessons in Strategic Management have been indispensable overall.
“You have to play to your strengths,” Simone says. “With only a small team working at Law & Cyber, building strategic alliances is so important – who can we work with, who can we offer value to that will help us scale up and achieve our goal of educating 10,000 people?”
She says learning the blue ocean strategy – referring to finding a market where there is little or no competition - was another turning point.
“Find a spot that nobody is filling and create something that people want and need. I embraced that there wasn’t something like Law & Cyber here in Australia. I saw it as an opportunity to support organisations such as associations and insurers to offer real value to their members and customers.”
The human face of cyber resilience
Simone stresses that cyber resilience is a people issue, not only a tech issue. So, it’s only fitting she leaned on her diverse AGSM MBA Executive cohort to get Law & Cyber off the ground.
“Engaging with people from other industries provides such a different perspective. It breaks you out of that tunnel vision you can have when you’ve been in the same industry for so long.
“I spoke to one of my MBA friends Vivien Ng a lot in the early days of Law & Cyber. We had a lot of practical discussions about customer experience – she worked in that area and really opened my eyes to a lot of things to consider in that space.”
Taking those considerations into account has helped Simone educate more than 4000 people through Law & Cyber’s suite of specialist online courses. Despite early success with Law & Cyber, Simone is still continuing her AGSM and UNSW journey. She recently took part in the UNSW Founders Program’s pre-accelerator.
“Being a small business owner can be really overwhelming. To go into that pre-accelerator program where everybody’s in a similar situation and to get some expert instruction, it helped me step back a little and really absorb that theoretical and practical support.”
It’s just the latest realisation to spring out of Simone’s AGSM work – work that’s helping her keep Australians a little safer.