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Pittsburgh cyber security company helping Afghan refugees in ‘Digital Dunkirk’

PITTSBURGH — From behind a keyboard, there’s a nationwide effort called “Digital Dunkirk,” and the goal is to help people escape Afghanistan.

A Pittsburgh cybersecurity company is playing a critical role.

Dan Desko runs Echelon Risk + Cyber in downtown Pittsburgh where they provide companies the tools they need to stay safe when it comes to hackers and ransom attacks. But over the last few weeks, they’ve also had another mission — to get Afghans safely out of Afghanistan.

“If we could find a way to use our skills in that sort of way and have people benefit from it and potentially save lives, how could you say no to that?” Desko said.

One of Desko’s employees, Ari Schloss, is a veteran and heard of the veteran-led effort to help Afghans.

“We were communicating with these families, we were telling them these are some places to avoid because of sources we got from twitter and other areas, and getting them to another gate,” Schloss said.

Schloss was deployed to the Middle East several times.

“We all come from different creeds, religions, political affiliation, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, these people helped us and we are going to help them,” Schloss said.

And the skills he and his colleagues use daily at Echelon translate perfectly to helping with “Digital Dunkirk.”

“We used a lot of those same skills and a lot of that training to actually help find and locate families of the people are in Afghanistan, find ways to contact them, their cell phone numbers, home phone, call them at 2 a.m.,” he said.

Desko said his company has helped at least 50 Afghans and their families to safety.