Features

Matt Letizia – Castle Group

He fortifies Castle Group against the hackers

The IT department’s internal email goes out weekly to Castle Group’s personnel throughout Florida, often spotlighting a current event as a reminder that cyber defense is a collective responsibility. Among the topics recently discussed was the cyberattack suffered by MGM Resorts International, which resulted in a third-quarter loss of $100 million.

This incident underscored a fundamental truth in cybersecurity: An organization’s defense is only as strong as its weakest link. In the case of MGM Resorts, evidence suggested that an individual on the help desk had been deceived by a hacker impersonating an employee. Such occurrences are not uncommon in the cyber threat landscape, as noted by Matt Letizia, who is committed to ensuring that such incidents do not befall Castle Group.

Matt Letizia | Director, Information Technology | Castle Group

Matt Letizia | Director, Information Technology | Castle Group

Since taking on the role of director of information technology in October 2021, Letizia has made cybersecurity a focal point of his responsibilities within this property management firm. Castle Group has recently expanded its operations, venturing into Texas and with approximately 1,500 email users among a 2,500-strong workforce and both figures expected to grow, there is an ongoing risk of vulnerabilities.

However, Letizia’s approach to cybersecurity is comprehensive. In addition to weekly email updates, he manages an anti-phishing campaign, which is set to transition to a monthly frequency as the company’s scale continues to increase. Employees who inadvertently click on harmful links are referred to the internal training and development team for cybersecurity guidance.

The nature of cyberattacks has evolved significantly from the days when Nigerian prince scams were commonplace. Today, the threats are far more sophisticated, with cybercriminals employing convincing tactics like impersonating a supervisor to request purchases of gift cards for ostensibly charitable causes.

Looking to the future, Letizia forewarns that malicious actors will persist in their efforts to deceive. They are continually refining their methods, and once they gain access to an individual’s email, they can employ creative tactics such as establishing online storage accounts through platforms like Google, thereby compromising the company’s data security.

He’s not boxed in

To enhance cybersecurity at Castle Group, Letizia has also thought creatively. He has forged a partnership between the IT department and Abira Security, a cybersecurity broker specializing in cost-effective solutions for the digital realm. Abira identifies the specific needs of corporate clients and connects them with suitable vendors, thereby creating a secure and robust cybersecurity infrastructure.

Letizia applauds his go-to consultant at Abira, Ray Harrison, who has facilitated collaborations with various vendors for proofs of concept. Over the past year, the team has conducted around a half-dozen POCs. Notable among these is an AI-based security solution renowned for its effectiveness against malicious emails.

Matt Letizia | Director, Information Technology | Castle Group

Thanks to the implementation of Castle Group’s AI-based security platform, the company has observed a remarkable 90 percent reduction in grey mail, spam and phishing attempts. This achievement is attributable to the platform’s evaluation of various data points within an email, including IP address, country of origin, sender’s identity and domain name, as well as the tone and language used in the communication. These efforts have not only fortified cybersecurity but also enhanced overall efficiency at the company’s headquarters in Plantation, Florida, and its five other locations across the state.

The firm’s strength being property management for more than 500 homeowners’ associations, condominiums and apartment complexes and there being much residential construction underway, Letizia says Castle Group is filling a niche in Florida and will do the same in Texas, another fast-growing state. Residents come first, he emphasizes, and through the firm’s Royal Service®, they benefit from Castle Group’s personnel, streamlined systems and advanced technology.

Since no two properties are identical, there’s a menu of services that allows customers to customize a solution. Letizia having made the case for Castle Group to hire a webmaster, junior webmaster and junior applications administrator, he now heads a 10-person IT team that he assures is up to the tasks of customer service and intensified online vigilance.

Wired from the start

Letizia, a New Jersey native with a passion for technology, embarked early on a journey into the realms of IT and business administration. His fascination with computer games, combined with a sense of duty inherited from his military family, led him to serve as a calvary scout in the U.S. Army. After an honorable discharge, he maximized his GI Bill benefits to pursue a university degree.

He became the full-time IT director at Delphi Behavioral Health Group in Fort Lauderdale. Life in South Florida has provided many opportunities and the chance to indulge in his hobbies, particularly wildlife photography. In his leisure time, he might be exploring the Everglades or other wilderness areas, capturing the beauty of birds and other creatures through the lens of his camera. Alternatively, he may be found at a gun range, where he refines his proficiency with firearms, a skill acquired during his military service.

Matt Letizia | Director, Information Technology | Castle Group

Over a span of approximately 13 years in IT, Letizia has ascended from a network systems engineer to managerial roles. His journey to Castle Group proved mutually beneficial. Unlike conventional IT departments that are often viewed as cost centers, Castle Group acknowledges the efficiency enhancements achieved under Letizia’s leadership, thanks in part to partnerships with companies such as Abira Security.

Letizia’s current position as the highest-ranking IT professional at Castle Group empowers him to influence the company’s technological decisions. While he may not have the final say, his voice carries significant weight, distinguishing it from his prior experiences with other employers. This alignment of vision between Letizia and the Castle Group executive team has made the past two years rewarding, and he anticipates the opportunities that lie ahead with the company.

“It’s been a fantastic two years,” he says.

View this feature in the Winter I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: November 22, 2023

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