Interview With Jeff Gottfurcht - Co-Founder and CEO of Cyber Dive

Published on: May 12, 2024
Shauli Zacks Shauli Zacks
Published on: May 12, 2024

SafetyDetectives recently spoke with Jeff Gottfurcht, Co-Founder and CEO of Cyber Dive, who shared the compelling origins and visionary goals of his company. Inspired by a disturbing incident of online abuse and leveraging his background in finance and tech, Jeff co-founded Cyber Dive with Derek Jackson. Together, they developed the Aqua One smartphone, designed to enhance online safety for children by providing comprehensive monitoring capabilities and fostering better parent-child communication. In this interview, Jeff discusses the unique features of Aqua One, the challenges of changing parental perceptions about digital safety, and Cyber Dive’s robust approach to data security in an evolving digital landscape.

Can you introduce yourself and talk about what motivated you to co-found Cyber Dive?

I had just returned from reaching the summit of Mount Everest when I encountered a distressing story. It detailed the plight of a young woman who suffered a sexual assault at a party. The trauma was magnified when her unconscious form was photographed and the images disseminated online, exposing her to additional indignity. This dual victimization seemed to pass largely unnoticed. Leveraging my Wall Street background and Silicon Valley connections, I engaged with key figures at leading tech companies to discuss the non-removal of such content. The unanimous explanation I received was disconcertingly simple: profit and section 230, which allows social media platforms to engage how they do without being liable. These social media crises appeared inconsequential to their operations. Confronted with this reality, I realized the imperative need for change.

In 2019, we launched Cyber Dive with Derek Jackson, our CTO and co-founder. As a former Captain in the US Army, Derek brought his expertise from a distinguished career in Military Intelligence, which included an overseas deployment where he led a team tasked with tracking ISIS’s recruitment techniques on social media. His extensive background has been instrumental in shaping Cyber Dive’s innovative cybersecurity strategies.

Born in Silicon Valley, but raised in Phoenix, Ariz., we created the Aqua One, the first smartphone built for kids with unlimited monitoring access for parents. Every action that a child takes, regardless of the application they are on, gets sent to a parent dashboard all in real time. It is fast, reliable and dependable as electricity for parents to finally get the insight they deserve to know.

Our company is committed to driving forward in creating safe, seamless and sustainable parental solutions that will result in deeper relationships free from the barriers and congestion that encompass a child’s online ecosystem.

For parents, social media monitoring should not be DIY and we have launched a solution that provides trusted answers, real-time insights, and transparent data lineage.

All enabling parents to drill deeper into the granular details at the dashboard level, curate critical insights that shape the data story their children are exposed to and gives parents the ability to touch the finest grain of online detail that deserves attention.

Our job is to turn walls sideways and make them into bridges.

How does the Aqua One smartphone differ from other devices aimed at children, and what unique features does it offer?

The Aqua One smartphone distinguishes itself from other devices aimed at children by integrating unique features that enhance both child safety and parental involvement. Here’s how it stands out:

  • Real-Time Mirroring Technology: Aqua One’s feature enables parents or guardians to receive real-time updates on every action, unlike other devices that only offer periodic updates or filtered reports. This allows for immediate oversight and reaction to potential concerns, a level of monitoring not typically available in other child-focused smartphones. While our competitors cover a miniscule 30+ apps, we are showing 10,000+ apps to parents. With our product, we’re playing chess while competitors tinker with checkers.
  • Mental Health Checks: The Aqua One features a Mental Health Check that engages the child with mental health-related inquiries three times daily. This feature momentarily halts their scroll to ask the child questions designed by clinical psychologists to assess their emotional and psychological state. The device logs each response and shares it with the parent or guardian, along with guidance on addressing emerging issues. This proactive approach to mental health prioritizes the child’s well-being as part of their daily device use.
  • Educational and Safety-Oriented Approach: While many devices might limit content or usage time, Aqua One’s approach fosters an environment that encourages safe and informed use of technology without imposing overly restrictive measures. It aims to educate children on digital safety and responsibility, which can help them develop better habits and critical thinking regarding their digital interactions.
  • Parent-Child Interaction: The device promotes ongoing dialogue between parents and children by providing detailed insights into the child’s activities and mental health state. These insights foster understanding and support rather than merely controlling or limiting the child’s actions.
  • Price-Conscious Product: Our Aqua One is priced at $30/mo with no contract or upfront cost. We follow economic trends, understanding that parents spend more at grocery stores, gas stations, and housing. On top of a competitive industry price, we offer free replacements for our Aqua One smartphone; we were children once, and remember how careless we can be at that age! We do not want parents constantly spending hundreds to replace a device, so we will replace your broken device for free.

These features make Aqua One a unique option in the market for devices aimed at children. It emphasizes safety, education, and mental health in ways that go beyond traditional screen time management or content filtering.

What were the initial challenges you faced when launching a tech product aimed at children’s online safety?

Launching a tech product aimed at children’s online safety, like the Aqua One smartphone, presents several initial challenges, particularly around shifting parental perceptions and the effectiveness of existing safety measures.

Traditionally, parental control technologies have heavily emphasized restricting content and imposing time limits, methods that have become the default understanding for many parents regarding digital safety. However, these approaches often lead to resistance from children, reduce opportunities for learning responsible digital habits, and fail to address critical underlying issues such as mental health. Overcoming these prevalent parental mindsets requires educating parents about the limitations of traditional safety measures and introducing them to more holistic and effective solutions like those offered by our product.

Cyber Dive is proud to partner with the Braden Markus Foundation, established after the tragic loss of Braden Markus to sextortion. Braden, a vibrant and popular young man, fell victim to an online predator who manipulated him into sending compromising images and then extorted him for money. Unable to cope, Braden tragically ended his life just 27 minutes after the initial contact. Every parent gives their child more than 27 minutes on the weekends, showing these time limits and restrictions are a mere cop out.  This story, echoed across the world, underscores the urgent need for vigilant digital supervision, which could be vastly improved with tools like the Aqua One smartphone. Braden’s mother, Jennifer Markus, passionately advocates for this technology: “Imagine your child has an Aqua One, a smartphone that lets them talk, text, and have all the social media apps they want. At the same time, you, as the parent, have an application on your phone that lets you see everything your child is doing. If we had Aqua One, Braden would probably still be here. We would have known he was being threatened and could have talked and calmed him down immediately and informed the police within those 27 minutes.”

Differentiating Aqua One from traditional models that focus on limitations and screen time management involves clear and effective communication strategies to highlight its unique features, such as real-time mirroring and mental health checks. These features position Aqua One not just as another tool for safety but as an innovative solution promoting healthier digital habits and interactions. Addressing these challenges required comprehensive educational campaigns aimed at parents, transparent communication about privacy and benefits, and proof of concept through user testimonials and data demonstrating the effectiveness of a more integrated and supportive approach to children’s online safety.

Can you discuss your approach to data security, especially considering the sensitive nature of the data involved?

At Cyber Dive, we prioritize data protection by leveraging advanced cyber security technologies along with industry leading tooling. Through encryption at rest, and in motion, across our entire infrastructure, we ensure that all data remains secure from unauthorized access. Our commitment to security extends beyond just encryption and into implementing fine-grained access controls and data masking techniques, guaranteeing that sensitive information is safeguarded at every step. Our robust logging, monitoring, and observability systems also enable us to maintain a vigilant watch over our infrastructure, providing detailed audit trails for enhanced oversight. We further bolster our defenses with stringent network security measures, including Virtual Private Clouds (VPC), security groups, and Access Control Lists (ACLs), fortifying our network against potential threats. Along with this host of tooling and access control techniques we also enforce short lived credentials, and require multi factor authentication(MFA) across the board. With meticulously defined data lifecycle management policies and routine security assessments, we remain proactive in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, thereby upholding data confidentiality, integrity, and availability within our environment.

With technology constantly evolving, how does Cyber Dive keep up with new trends and potential online threats to children?

At Cyber Dive, we’re dedicated to staying ahead of the curve when protecting children online.  We take a proactive approach by closely monitoring the latest social media trends and digital developments to understand how they affect kids’ safety. Our ability to monitor 10,000+ apps gives us a distinct edge over industry competitors. As new apps grow in popularity, so does our pool of monitored apps.

Our commitment extends to providing parents with powerful tools to monitor their child’s online activities in real time, promoting transparency and awareness. Moreover, we care about mental health, conducting daily checks and sharing the results on the parent dashboard, empowering parents to stay connected with their child’s well-being. Our informative blogs aim to equip parents with practical advice for navigating social media challenges effectively. By integrating these efforts, Cyber Dive remains at the forefront of safeguarding children in today’s ever-changing digital world.

As new trends emerge within the digital landscape, we at Cyber Dive continue to invent new features that will enable parents to leverage technology while their kids are navigating a world that is often nefarious and filled with dangerous themes. Our company’s core ingredient is futurism and creative brainpower all which lead to us invent features that are steps ahead of what is happening in the digital landscape we reside in.

This is not a third grade science project we’re talking about. Children are having to learn to navigate an online world that is steps ahead of them and is often filed with just one person with bad intentions waiting to make their “neighborhood” unsafe.

If parents think social media companies are going to elicit change, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a long time. We are here to help solve the online issues families face, as we all know digital amputation is not a true possibility and the Aqua One is a valid symmetrical answer for families who believe in involvement over limitation.

About the Author
Shauli Zacks
Published on: May 12, 2024

About the Author

Shauli Zacks is a tech enthusiast who has reviewed and compared hundreds of programs in multiple niches, including cybersecurity, office and productivity tools, and parental control apps. He enjoys researching and understanding what features are important to the people using these tools.

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