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Federal Cyber Security Official Visits UWF

Bob Barrett

  Dr. Phyllis Schneck has quite a title. She is Deputy Under-Secretary of Cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security. She was in Pensacola last week speaking to students at the University of West Florida about their cyber security program.

"Today I had the opportunity to meet some amazing students who are ahead of their time. They are exactly what we are looking for as far as not only being smart and having mastered their part of the field so young, and really working toward what can they do next with that degree. What's the research they want to do? What are the ideas they are interested in? Every student (I spoke to) had a direction that they personally loved, had a set of faculty that they worked with and guided them through this. But more important that that, these students can communicate. They are not 'hoodies in a dark room that are introverts'".

Dr Schneck says Pensacola is rapidly becoming Florida’s Cyber-Coast with the UWF program and the large military presence. She has worked for years in the filed in both government and the private sector and says both approaches are important. "The private sector is focused on building and innovating great products and services. To do that they need money." She said business constantly follows a bottom line to continue their innovations, whereas government allocates money to accomplish a mission. Dr. Schneck says her mission is to lead her team of scientists to protect, respond and protect systems from cyber threats. 

The Department of Homeland Security takes information from business and academia and uses it to, in a way, inoculate systems against threats. She calls it an integration between privacy and security that can collect and distribute information about threats to the different parts of the network  "so that we can work like your body's immune system and stop bad things or see bad things before they happen."

The under-secretary says there will likely never be a time that cyber security threats can be eliminated and we can all give a collective sigh of relief. "But, we started from a place that I consider far behind . Because when the internet was developed it was never imagined that computers would have such power (to) compute so fast and create data so quickly." She says that speed also enables malware to infect systems quickly. "No one ever imagined that the connectivity would create a 'bad side'. So now we're catching up. We have legacy systems we have to figure out how to either replace or protect. That's expensive!"

Dr. Phyllis Schneck is Deputy Under-Secretary of Cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security. She says that as more schools, from college to elementary level add cyber security programs it will become just another part of the everyday routine. 

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.
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