InfoSec People Profiles: Jim Van Dyke

Sontiq’s SVP of Innovation Sheds Light on the Growth of Fintech and Cyber Threats

By Roy Urrico

Finopotamus presents InfoSec People Profiles, a series spotlighting individuals working in information security to protect data and transactions at credit unions and other financial institutions.

Jim Van Dyke, SVP, Sontiq

Jim Van Dyke, the senior vice president of innovation at identity security company Sontiq, has seen the best and the worst the internet has to offer — from working with fintech startups to more recently securing people and companies from identity theft and fraud threats.

Van Dyke earned his education in California’s Silicon Valley and Bay Area, with a bachelor’s from San Jose State University and a master’s from San Francisco’s Golden Gate University. Both degrees were in business and both were with honors.

Upon entering the workforce in the 1980s, he learned early on going electronic was a remedy for businesses that relied too much on paperwork. This realization led to a job with an early digital commerce company.

When internet banking (then called home banking) began to lift off in the mid-1990s, Van Dyke went to work for a credit union tech company. “I ended up being a product manager for all phases of fintech and security technology products,” he said. As part of the job, he then moved over to research. “That’s where I fell in love with the work I do now. Trying to understand how security problems turn into identity theft and fraud problems. And that is where I primarily stayed focused.”

The Promise and Problems of Digital Commerce

The early days of digital commerce were not so much plug-and-play but more like disks and cables. “When I started in digital commerce, we would literally run the wires in the business, you sold people the computer hardware and software for electronic communication.” Especially since the only widely available network then was the ARPANET, which became the basis for the internet, and was in just a few universities or the military, Van Dyke noted.

He recalled selling a 5 megabyte, 14-inch diameter disc pack for $5,000. “We would implement essentially a proprietary version of the web for that business in the supply chain and hand out floppy disks to teach people how to do everything from communicate, to set up bill pay, to the whole works.”

In 2002, Van Dyke founded advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research, at least officially. Although he actually started Javelin in 1998, he put Javelin aside to move to Jupiter Media Metrix during the dot-com boom. He then returned to restart Javelin for a 13-year run that culminated with its sale to Greenwich Associates in 2015.

After selling Javelin, he became an expert witness in many large data breach cases. “All the type of big cases that are causing the fraud that credit unions and members have to deal with today, like Experian, Yahoo and Equifax,” said Van Dyke.

The knowledge gained from his experience as a witness led Van Dyke to co-found Breach Clarity with Al Pascual (now senior vice president, data breach solutions at Sontiq) in 2016. “I was the inventor of the technology and I was delighted to have Al's expertise as a person who's worked in a fraud mitigation role in fintech or financial institutions helping build out the product and start up the corporation.” Breach Clarity, which utilizes an algorithm that analyzes numerous data points to assess the risks stemming from a breach, won recognition from the credit union and fintech communities for its innovative approach to cyber protection.

That was before COVID-19 hit. “The pandemic made it hard to innovate because a lot of credit unions cut their innovation budgets for anything but obvious short term payoff areas like online account opening,” said Van Dyke. “A lot of innovation budgets really suffered in the pandemic even though we had more members (using) digital.”

Nottingham, Md.-based Sontiq bought Breach Clarity in March 2021 and renamed it BreachIQ. “It turned out to be a great partnership for me,” said Van Dyke, whose current role as SVP is to further BreachIQ’s market growth.

Raising Financial Institutions’ BreachIQ

“One hundred percent of everything that was in the old Breach Clarity product is still in BreachIQ. We kept all those features, but we're really able