Neal O’Farrell

Neal O’Farrell is one of the longest serving security experts on the planet, 40 years and counting.

And it’s been more than two decades since he started the fight against identity theft when he was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness. That ground-breaking program was used by more than 200 police departments and police academies, as well as the FBI, the DMV, and US Attorney’s Office.

Neal has advised half a dozen governments, served on the Federal Communications Commission’s Cybersecurity Roundtable, and spent a decade as head of the Identity Theft Council.

Neal was also the only security expert invited to advise President Obama’s STOCK Act Panel, created to help prevent members of Congress and their families from profiting from insider knowledge.

Neal began his career in the 1980s protecting European banks and governments from the first generation of hackers, and in 2003 he launched Think Security First, the nation’s first cybersecurity awareness initiative and an experiment to raise the security awareness of an entire city (Walnut Creek California, pop.64,000).

He went on to lead the Identity Theft Council, an award-winning non-profit that has assisted thousands of victims of identity theft. Through his work with the Council, Neal helped to set new standards in the way victims of identity theft are treated and supported, and in how law enforcement is trained.

Neal has worked with hundreds of police departments, Neighborhood Watch groups and community action organizations, and took 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 cybersecurity industry’s most prestigious awards. Previous winners include the NSA.

He’s the author of “Double Trouble – Protecting Your Identity In An Age Of Cybercrime,” 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.

He 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.

MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE

After years of struggling with his own personal mental health issues, Neal is now focused on changing the way we address mental illness and wellness.

  • As part of the NIST Global City Teams Challenge, he led a study into how future smart cities could help to improve the mental health of residents.
  • He’s leading a UN study into how communities around the world can improve their psychological resilience in the face of growing disasters, crises, and climate change.
  • He currently teaches cybersecurity teams at Fortune 500 firms how to manage the chronic stress and burnout that often comes with the job.
  • And he’s taught stress management techniques to audiences in more than 50 countries.

SPEAKER AND TRAINER

Neal has spoken about security and privacy to audiences around the world including:

  • Facebook
  • Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
  • Ameriprise
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Stifel Nicolaus
  • US Bank
  • US Trust
  • SecureWorld
  • Bartlett Wealth Management
  • The Institute of Management Accountants
  • The CPA Firm Management Association
  • The Global Business Travel Association
  • BKR International
  • The Credit Union National Association (CUNA)
  • The National Association of Secretaries of State
  • Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
  • High Tech Crimes Investigators Association (HTCIA)
  • California Financial Crimes Investigators Association (CFCIA)
  • California High Technology Crime Advisory Committee (HTCAC)
  • International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators
  • The California Bar Association
  • Chevron Texaco

 

Interested in Neal’s lengthy security history? It predates today’s cybersecurity industry, so settle in.

 

A DEEP BACKGROUND IN SECURITY

In the 1980s, at the birth of the cybersecurity industry, Neal was helping governments, banks, and intelligence agencies protect their most sensitive communications. In the mid-1980s, after a government phone tapping scandal, he developed a telephone privacy system for the Irish government, and later went on to work with Nokia to incorporate privacy and security into their first generation of cell phones.

In 1988 Neal won the first contract to encrypt Ireland’s entire national ATM network, the same year he installed the first two-factor authentication system in an Irish bank. He also co-hosted with IBM one of Europe’s first network security conferences in 1989.

That was the same year he started the Intrepid project, a government-supported program to develop a European rival for the NSA’s Secure Telephone System (STU3), considered the world’s most secure, secure telephone system. The result of the project was the launch of Milcode, widely considered the most secure secure telephone of its time. That project brought Neal into direct conflict with the NSA and that story is chronicled in his upcoming book The Man from Intrepid.

Neal also developed Faxcode, the world’s first fully encrypting fax machine, and resulted in his selection as the first Irish entrepreneur to be invited to participate in the Export to Japan study program hosted by the Japanese government.

Neal later went on to work with a number of British defense companies to develop a new generation of telephone privacy and encryption systems, including Clipper, and was the first Irishman invited to visit GCHQ, Britain’s ultra secretive spy center. He also worked with Britain’s largest bank to develop the first generation of voice verification biometrics for the bank’s telephone banking system.

More than twenty years ago, in 2000, just four weeks after arriving in San Francisco Neal was appointed the first ever Director of Education for a security company (ZoneAlarm, now Check Point). As editor of The Zone, he was responsible for teaching security to more than 3 million users in 120 countries.

That same year, Neal wrote a ground-breaking series of articles for SearchSecurity.com urging a greater focus on “the human perimeter” as a defense against all kinds of cyber threats. His article “Security Training: A Call To Arms,” was selected by SearchSecurity.com as one of the Top 10 Executive Briefings.

Shortly after that he started building employee security awareness courses, for firms like bebe Stores and Cost Plus World Market, and nearly twenty years later, World Market is still a client.

He later co-founded 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.

Neal was invited to Chair the first “Cybercrime on Wall Street” conference hosted by the Institute for International Research (IIR). In 2002 he launched Hackademia, a partnership with security publisher Syngress (now part of Elsevier) to turn their collection of Hack Proofing guides into online security training courses.

Hackademia is now part of the University of Washington. Neal served as Technical Editor  and contributor for one of the first in the Hack Proofing series, “Hack Proofing Your Wireless Network.”

THE HISTORY OF THINK SECURITY FIRST

In 2002 Neal launched the first Think Security First, the nation’s very first Cyber Secure City and a unique experiment to raise the security awareness of an entire city (Walnut Creek, CA, pop. 64,000). As part of that initiative, the entire city – residents, businesses, schools, even the Mayor, city council, and police department – participated in extensive security awareness training.

The program slogan was “Think Security First!”, a mantra that is even more important more than 20 years later.

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.

As part of his commitment to bolster the cybersecurity workforce, Neal has been involved in numerous high school cybersecurity initiatives. He’s a member of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NIST), a member of the advisory board of the nation’s first Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program, launched in California in 2016, and a member of the OC3 Education and Workforce Subcommittee, an initiative of the Ohio National Guard.

TRUSTED ADVISOR

Over his 40-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.

He was also a member of the first Federal Communications Commission’s Cybersecurity Roundtable, where he helped develop one of the first online security planning tools for small firms.

Neal was the only security expert invited to advise the Congressionally-mandated Stock Act panel in 2013, empaneled by Congress to study the security and privacy implications of greater financial transparency by members of Congress and senior federal employees.

As part of that study, over a period of six months Neal participated in in-depth interviews on national security and privacy issues with nearly sixty organizations including the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the Office of National Counterintelligence, Office of the White House General Counsel, SEC, FTC, FBI and nearly twenty other executive branch agencies.

IDENTITY THEFT EXPERT

In 2003 Neal was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness. He went on to lead the Identity Theft Council for more than a decade, an award-winning non-profit 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 has worked 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.

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. Neal is also 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.

SECURITY ADVOCATE

Neal was 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 served 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 was an advisor to blockchain startup Civic, one of the first startups to complete a successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO), and is currently an advisor to Adaptable Security, DropVault, Taliware, CyberTrust America, and a Fellow of the EP3 Foundation.

He 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.

Neal’s security programs have been used by hundreds of organizations including Autodesk, Rodan and Fields, World Market, bebe Stores, Plaid, Voya, Tulane University, and the Arkansas State University System.

 

“Bottom line? Neal knows what he’s talking about.”

Brett Johnson, AKA “GOllumFun,” co-founder of ShadowCrew, the first underground cybercrime market, and dubbed by the Secret Service as the Original Internet Godfather.