An Interview with Harry Cooper, CEO/Owner, technology consultant
1. Tell us about yourself and your organization, and what you do.
I am what you would call a "Jack of All Trades". I've always used my drive and determination to succeed, whether it was in athletics, in college or at work. I spent 13 years in the corporate sector before starting my own technology company Thimbleweed Consulting and subsequently TWC Security in 2010. I focus on cyber counterintelligence, research and development of various cyber threat analyses, security and forensic technology.
I have a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.S. in Cybersecurity – Intelligence, Computer Forensics and Cyber Operations from Utica College.
I also teach graduate and undergraduate courses on cyber counter intelligence, Information Assurance, Cryptography, Cyber Defense, Systems Vulnerability, and other cyber courses at Utica College as an Adjunct Professor.
2. What are the typical responsibilities of your job and what is an average day like?
As the CEO of Thimbleweed Consulting and TWC Security, in a typical day I get to deal with everything from financials to website designs to hardware manufacturing. Unfortunately, as much as I love tech, I still have to dedicate about a third of my time to running a business, but the other two thirds of the time I get to do some really fun stuff.
Currently, I am working on some interesting penetration tools and hacker-esque tools that will help in securing networks by detecting ahead of time possible threat vectors both digital and physical.
3. Can you tell us about a special project that you worked on that is a great example of what you do?
One of my favorite projects I worked on has to be one of my first security/forensic tools I designed called All-In-USB. The tool, which is available on www.twcsec.com, was designed around the premise of hating to build my live capture tools command line by command line each time. The All-In-USB handles that for me. The software will allow me to build automated routines that will do everything from a memory dump to reading browser cookies. Setup ahead of time, a live capture can be executed, data captured, and device removed in under 60 seconds. It's pretty cool!
4. Why did this type of work interest you, and how did you get started?
Even though my Bachelor's degree is in Political Science, I have worked in the technology field since I was an undergrad. A natural extension of any decent technology manager is to stay ahead of the bad guys.
With the surge of technology taking over many of the day to day systems and functions of our world, I realized that meant I needed to enhance my skills with regards to cybersecurity. That is why I went to Utica College for my Master's degree in Cybersecurity. Right after graduation, I was honored by Professor Giordano with teaching CYB615, Intro to Counter Intelligence.
Soon thereafter, I also started teaching other graduate and undergraduate courses. I really enjoy bringing the techniques and skills from the real-world into the classroom and demonstrating how the coursework is applied.
5. What are the skills and personality traits that are most important for a position in this field?
Drive! A drive to learn the latest tools, a drive to figure out a problem, and a drive to fix that problem. Those are what I believe to be the best skills of a successful IT professional.
6. How well did your college experience prepare you for this job?
Utica College prepared me very well for both my company, TWC Security, and for my teaching career. The quality of the curriculum, the real-world expertise of the faculty and the connections I made with them as well as with my cohort classmates was invaluable. Without the knowledge that I learned from the great professors in the program, I would not be doing what I do today.
7. What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying/challenging?
I found teaching to be both the most satisfying and most challenging part of my career. Knowing that I am taking part in building the next wave of personnel that will be protecting the technology that drives our world both exhilarates and scares me.
To know that I am responsible for a portion of their knowledge is a weighty task, but it drives me to ensure that I remain up to date on not only base technology issues, but the reasoning behind those issues, and ways to address those issues. When a student I have taught assimilates that information and uses it in their daily job – that is when I am most satisfied.
8. Can you tell us about the courses you teach at Utica College and what area of Cybersecurity each covers?
I teach several cybersecurity courses. For example, CYB615 - Cyber Counter Intelligence. This course covers the history and evolution of cyber -counterintelligence, including passive and active measures, principles, processes, ethics, and evaluation of successes and failures.
I strive to make this course a lot of fun and teach a bunch of skills. One week of the course, the students do photo forensics. Instead of just doing photo forensics, we teach them that software tools are not always the last word on the content and intelligence that can come from a photograph. We encourage the students in the class to interact with one another in developing a different viewpoint from the photos other than what they can physically see or get from a tool.
It may not sound like a ton of fun, but lots of students at the end of the semester look back and realize that lesson helped them break their dependence on software and their trusting before verifying.
Another course I teach is CYB605 - Principles of CyberSecurity. This course reviews the impact of cybersecurity on institutions, privacy, business and government applications, and examines the dimensions of networks, protocols, operating systems, and associated applications.
This is a rigorous first course for the Master's Program that teaches students a lot of basic knowledge they will need to succeed in the remainder of the program. As much as I would like to say this course will be all fun, this course will beat you up a bit.
Thankfully, this course is taken during your residency which makes it a lot easier to understand, and allows you to interact and get supported by your wonderful professors!
9. Where do you see Cybersecurity going in the future?
Everywhere. Plain and simple. As the human race automates more and more everyday activities, the more Cybersecurity will need to be involved. A hundred years ago, the thought that a computer would be controlling the systems that power your home, provide it with water, even process your trash would have been scoffed at by everyone. Now, ask someone to carry out one of these tasks manually and you would most likely get a blank stare. So as we continue this move toward greater automation and utilize technology to drive that automation, Cyber Security professionals are going to need to step in and protect those same exact systems.
10. What advice would you give to someone looking to advance in this field?
My first piece of advice differs a bit based on the individual. So there are two answers.
If you are not a tech person at heart, meaning you don't have a background in technology, then your first step should be to increase your tech skills with some very basic courses. There are some great programs out there including preparation for such programs/certifications like CompTIA A+. Courses within the Bachelor's in Cybersecurity program are also helpful. Taking the time to do one of these courses will help prepare you to successfully complete the Master's program.
If you are a tech person at heart, then your first step should be to look at your career goals and your "dream job". The program provides you up to three tracks that you can take, Intelligence, Forensics, and Cyber Operations. Knowing ahead of time where you would love to be and what you want to be doing, will help steer you in the right direction when it comes to the track or tracks you choose.
Learn more about the bachelor's and master's programs in Cybersecurity at Utica College and how a degree can help you jump-start your career in the industry. Request more information or call (315) 732-2640 or toll-free (866) 295-3106 to speak with a Program Manager.