"I don't know if people have really realized what's possible," hacker Dr. Jared DeMott tells CNBC. "We all live with a gross amount of insecurity."
DeMott, a Ph.D. whose very first job out of college was at the NSA, is working about as hard as a person can to help Americans better understand the threat posed by cybercriminals — and the ways to protect yourself and your data.
He is an associate professor of cybersecurity at Dakota State University and the founder of VDA Labs in Michigan, a cybersecurity company. (VDA stands for Vulnerability Discovery and Analysis.) He gives talks. And, in his spare time, he does contract work for Synack, one of the 50 CNBC Disruptors of 2017, a company started by other ex-NSA types. Synack hires good-guy hackers to act like bad-guy hackers in order to help clients realize and attend to their vulnerabilities.
In short, this "white-hat" hacker on Synack's prestigious Red Team thinks your threat alert level, when it comes to issues of cybersecurity, should probably be orange. That's something to keep in mind when investing in technology like smartphones or even cutting-edge digital thermostats.