Meet Your Chief Awareness Officer
Neal O'Farrell is considered one of the world's leading "people" security experts, a reputation earned from fighting cybercrime and identity theft around the world for more than 35 years.
Neal began his career in Ireland in the early 1980s and after just a few years was considered one of the go-to security and privacy experts in the early days of the cybersecurity industry in Europe. In the mid 1980s Neal worked with Nokia to add privacy to one of the first generations of mobile phones. And after a highly publicized government phone tapping scandal in Ireland, Neal developed a telephone privacy system for the Irish Government.
In the late 1980s Neal won the first ever contract to encrypt Ireland's entire national ATM network, and later installed the first two-factor authentication system in an Irish bank. He also went on to develop the first voice verification-based phone banking access control system for Britain's largest bank. Today they call it biometrics. In 1988 he led a project called Intrepid to develop a European rival for the NSA's STU3, the world's most secure, secure telephone system. That story is recounted in his upcoming book The Man From Intrepid.
Over his 35 year career Neal has worked with governments, the intelligence community, the financial community, Fortune 500 companies, thousands of small businesses and millions of end users and consumers. And it's been nearly fifteen years since he first started building employee security awareness programs, for retailers like Cost Plus World Market and bebe Stores, to pharmaceutical firms and universities.
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since Neal co-hosted with IBM one of Europe’s first network security conferences and today he speaks at at least one event every month.
Neal was one of the first Directors of Education ever appointed by a security company (ZoneAlarm, now part of Check Point), in 2000. That was also the same year, as a writer for SearchSecurity.com, that he coined the term "the Human Perimeter" as part of a series of articles on the growing importance of employee security awareness.
Neal was a co-founder of the Center for Information Security Awareness, a partnership with FBI/InfraGard to provide free employee security awareness training for individuals and small businesses. Neal created the entire course, test, and certification, and that course has since been accessed by thousands of organizations. In 2002 he launched Hackademia, one of the first companies to offer cybersecurity courses online. Hackademia is now part of the University of Washington.
In 2003 Neal launched the nation’s very first Cyber Secure City, a unique experiment to train an entire city – residents, businesses, schools, even the Mayor and city council – in cybersecurity and identity theft awareness. Partners in the yearlong initiative included Microsoft, Cisco, McAfee, and AT&T, and received the endorsement of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, and the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)².
Neal also heads Schooled In Security, a Silicon Valley initiative to bring cybersecurity education to every high school and encourage students to pursue careers in cybersecurity. He’s a member of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) K12 Committee, and a member of their national conference committee.
IDENTITY THEFT EXPERT
In 2004 Neal was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness. He’s also the Executive Director of the Identity Theft Council, an award-winning nonprofit that has assisted thousands of victims of identity theft. 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 is 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. In 2011 the Council was honored with the 2011 Editors Choice Award from SC Magazine, one of the cyber security industry's most prestigious awards. Previous winners include the NSA.
Neal also leads Operation Stop IT! – Stop Identity Theft – the biggest push back against identity theft in law enforcement history. He has also been called on as an expert witness and as an advisor on data breach response.
Neal is a member of the Online Trust Alliance IoT working group, and in 2015 he was honored as the first ever recipient of the Eigen Award, presented by the International Association of Certified Fraud Examiners at the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco.
Neal has advised numerous companies on breach prevention and response, and was a member of the Federal Communications Commission's Cybersecurity Roundtable where he helped develop their online cybersecurity planning tool. He was also the only security expert invited to advise the Congressionally-mandated Stock Act panel in 2013Empanelled to study the security and privacy implications of greater financial transparency by members of Congress and senior federal employees.
He has acted as advisor to numerous security firms including ZoneAlarm (now Check Point), Surf Control (now Websense), Ntru Cryptosystems, Securify, and SiteLock, and identity protection firms like PrivacyMatters, EZ Shield, IdentityGuard, and Credit Sesame. He is currently advisor to Civic, a Silicon Valley startup that is changing the fight against identity theft for consumers, lenders, and merchants.
SPEAKER AND TRAINER
Neal taught security to numerous audiences including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Ameriprise, Stifel Nicolaus, BKR International, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), and the National Association of Secretaries of State, as well as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the High Tech Crimes Investigators Association (HTCIA), the California Financial Crimes Investigators Association (CFCIA), the California High Technology Crime Advisory Committee (HTCAC), and the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators.
AUTHOR AND SPOKESPERSON
Neal has authored more than a thousand blogs and articles on security and privacy and has been quoted in numerous publications around the world including the New York Times, Forbes, Inc., the Wall St. Journal, the Huffington Post, CNN Money, BusinessWeek, USA Today, SmartMoney, CNET, Information Week, the National Law Journal, Today.com, NBC, CBS, CNBC, Fox Business, and the South China Morning Post.
His book on identity theft has been used by three of the top five U.S. banks to educate their customers on identity theft prevention. He is the Executive Producer of the documentary series In the Company of Thieves that goes inside the world of professional identity thieves and has appeared on the Discovery Channel's Investigation Discovery series.
ON A LESS SERIOUS NOTE...
- Neal’s Grand Uncle Michael Farrell made Maureen O’Hara’s fist movie, in 1934, when she was just 13.
- Neal’s cousin Michelle Dockery played Lady Mary Crawley in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.
- In the true spirit of the Irish immigrant, Neal came to America by boat, delivering a newly built yacht from France to West Africa and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. In the middle of winter.
- In 1989 Neal developed the first ever fully encrypting fax machine, in response to the growing threat of fax surveillance and interception.
- Neal was one of the first Irishmen ever invited inside GCHQ, Britain's ultra secret spy headquarters.