This Week InSecurity is written by Neal O'Farrell, the nation's leading consumer security advocate and an internationally respected expert who has been fighting cybercrime and identity theft around the world for thirty years.
By the time he was 25 Neal was considered one of the world's youngest computer security experts, developing advanced encryption systems for governments, the military, and the financial industry.
In 1987, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was photographed using a Nokia Cityman mobile phone at a press conference in Finland, Neal was invited by Nokia to help develop a privacy system for that phone. And after a phone eavesdropping scandal in Ireland Neal was invited to develop a replacement for the Irish government's aging secure telephone system.
Neal later helped Britain's largest bank develop the first voice-based biometric access control system for its national telephone banking system; won the contract to encrypt Ireland's entire national ATM network; installed the very first two-factor authentication system in an Irish bank; hosted one of Europe's first network security conferences; and also went on to lead a secretive project called Intrepid with a goal to develop the world's most secure, secure telephone system. The project was so successful it attracted the attention of intelligence agencies around the world and his adventures in secret keeping are chronicled in an upcoming book called The Man from Intrepid.
Neal is regarded as one of the early pioneers of the cybersecurity industry, and was working full time in the industry before most of today's cyber security firms were born. He has advised the U.S. Congress and the Government of Bulgaria on security issues, as well as retailers like bebe Stores and Cost Plus World Market, and identity protection firms like PrivacyMatters and IdentityGuard. In 2001 the Institute for International Research (IIR) described Neal as one the world's Top 20 security experts.
As Executive Director of the Identity Theft Council, an award-winning non-profit victim support network, he has personally helped thousands of victims of identity theft get through the process. The Council is a national partnership that includes the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Community Bankers of America, the Online Trust Alliance, the Identity Theft Resource Center, and the Elder Financial Protection Network. In 2011 Neal's work was recognized by the security industry when the Council was the first non-profit to win the prestigious SC Magazine Editor's Choice Award, presented at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco. Previous winners of the award include the SANS Institute and the NSA.
Through his work with the Council, Neal has helped set new standards in the way victims of identity theft are treated and supported, and in how law enforcement are trained. He works with hundreds of police departments, Neighborhood Watch groups and community action organizations. He also takes on complex cases referred to him by the FBI and U.S. Secret Service.
He has fought to extend the consumer protections under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) to small business bank accounts, and has also led the fight against abusive practices by payday lenders. Neal also leads one of the Council's recent initiatives, called Foster Warriors, that helps teens in foster care pursue studies and careers in cybersecurity.
Neal has worked tirelessly to protect the nation's 26 million small business owners. He is currently working with the National Small Business Association and other groups to improve cybersecurity awareness for small businesses, including presenting new legislation before Congress. He has advised the National Association of Secretaries of State's Business Identity Task Force, and leads the Small Business Identity Task Force as part of the Center for Identity at the University of Texas in Austin, the nation's center for excellence on all things identity. He is also a member of the Federal Communications Commission's Cybersecurity Roundtable Working Group, where he helped create the FCC's Small Business Cybersecurity Planning Tool.
Neal is a member of the Consumer Steering Committee of the Identity Ecosystem, a part of the White House' National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, as well as a member of the Anti-Phishing Working group, and the Online Trust Alliance.
Neal was recently appointed Senior Advisor to the Stock Act panel, the Congressionally-mandated study into the security, privacy, and other implications of the Stock Act, signed into law by President Obama in April 2012.
He is also a member of the Tech, Media & Telecom Council of the Gerson Lehrman Group, where he advises investment managers in the Hedge Fund, Private Equity, VC and Mutual Fund spaces on the future of technology and the potential impact to the capital markets, with a specific focus on cybersecurity, identity monitoring, and consumer protection.
Neal is always the go-to expert whenever there's a major security challenge. When a Government agency suffered a massive data breach in 2011 that exposed the personal records of more than 3 million individuals, Neal was called in to make sure it didn't happen again. And when Lucky Supermarkets in California discovered that 24 of its supermarket checkouts had been compromised by hackers, Neal was called on to help assist the thousands of victims affected by the breach.
A passionate security educator, Neal has authored more than 150 articles on security and has appeared in numerous publications around the world including CNN Money, BusinessWeek, SmartMoney, CNET, Information Week, the National Law Journal, Today.com, Fox Business, and the South China Morning Post.
He is the author of "Double Trouble - Protecting Your Identity in an Age of Cybercrime," used as an education tool by numerous organizations including three of the top five U.S. banks as well as Costco and the NFL Player's Association. He is also a former columnist with SearchSecurity.com, and Technical Editor for the "Hack Proofing" series of security guides from Elsevier Publishing.
Neal has previously served as Consumer Security Advocate for IdentityGuard, the leading provider of identity protection services that have protected more than 30 million consumers since 2000. He was also the Director of Education for security firm ZoneAlarm, makers of the award-winning personal firewall now used by more than 60 million users worldwide. At ZoneAlarm he was also editor of The Zone, the monthly magazine and newsletter that provided security advice to more than 3 million readers in 120 countries.
In 2002 Neal organized the nation's very first Cyber Security Day, and he also founded Think Security First, a non-profit security awareness initiative supported by the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, Cisco, and McAfee. The goal of the program was to provide free security education and awareness to businesses, residents, schools, and law enforcement.
He is a founder and board member of the Center for Information Security Awareness, a non-profit partnership with FBI InfraGard to provide quality employee security awareness training and certification to every workplace in the country. The course has been used by more than 3,000 organizations.
Neal was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness, and that program has since been used by more than 200 police departments and police academies, as well as the FBI, the DMV, and US Attorney's Office.
He is a sought-after speaker on identity theft issues, and has been invited to speak at numerous events and groups including the Information Integrity World Summit, the Network Infrastructure Conference, the Financial Network Security Conference, the Computer Security Institute Annual Conference, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators, the Identity Management Summit, the California Financial Crimes Investigators Association (CFCIA) Annual Conference, High Tech Crimes Investigators Association (HTCIA) International Conference, the California Crime Prevention Officers Association (CCPOA), and the International Payments Summit. He was also invited to Chair the first "Cybercrime On Wall Street" conference in 2002.