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Airdate: Dec 07, 2016
Scientist: Charles Clancy

Cybersecurity - Hacker to Defender

Cybersecurity - Hacker to Defender
"The school administrator gave me my own network to play with in class so I would leave her network alone."

Hacker to Cyber Defender

Clancy: In the early 1990s, as a teenager, I began looking at potential security vulnerabilities that existed in the early days of the internet. I almost got expelled from high school.

And from those humble beginnings, a hacker was born. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Clancy: When I was in 10th grade, the systems administrator for the school district gave me my own network to play with in class so I would leave her network alone.

Charles Clancy went from being a hacker to a cyber-defense expert and professor of electrical and computer engineering at VA Tech.

Clancy: In college, I worked as a systems administrator where I was responsible for running a portion of the campus network and through that process gained a lot of experience, but earned the ire of some of the university faculty in some of the activities that I undertook, the most notable of which was I created a website that was not dissimilar to Facebook, only this was in the late 1990s, and used pictures of students that I had hacked from the university campus system. This was not viewed positively by some members of the university administration, although many faculty members on campus actually used the system as a part of planning their courses and knowing who the students were in their courses.

In the mid 1990s, I guess I would definitely have called myself a hacker. I was growing the sorts of networks that I was able to get into and came to the conclusion that there were two trajectories that I could go with my future and I really needed to focus my skills on more productive aspects of computer security or I'd likely end up in prison.

I got very involved in maintaining portions of the university network and as part of that, learned an appreciation for the defensive side of cybersecurity. I ended up working for the U.S. government in a role that involved a mixture of cyberdefense and cyber-offense responsibilities and it's from that platform that I then ended up at Virginia Tech working on research in that area.

We'll hear more on cyber security in future programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.