Neal O’Farrell is exactly the kind of security expert you want on your side. Before a security incident happens, or after.
The straight-talking, no-nonsense Irishman has been fighting cybercrime and identity theft around the world for more than 35 years, which makes him one of the most experienced security experts on the planet. And which is why governments, intelligence agencies, Fortune 500 companies and consumers have turned to him for advice.
Like so many experts, Neal started his career in the deep end, protecting the networks and secrets of the highest value targets - banks, governments, and the intelligence community. He was also one of the first generation of security entrepreneurs to take on the NSA, an experience chronicled 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. He was a member of the Federal Communications Commissions's Cybersecurity Roundtable, where he helped develop one of the first online security planning tools for small firms. He was also the only security expert invited to advise the Congressionally-mandated Stock Act panel in 2013, empanelled to study the security and privacy implications of greater financial transparency by members of Congress and senior federal employees.
Neal started his career in security protecting European banks and governments from the first generation of hackers, including winning the first ever contract to encrypt Ireland's entire national ATM network in 1988, and co-hosting with IBM one of Europe's first network security conferences in 1989.
Neal is passionate about the importance of educating users to defeat cyber threats, and 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.
Neal currently heads Schooled In Security, a non-profit Silicon Valley initiative to bring cybersecurity education to every high school and encourage students to pursue careers in cybersecurity to help address the critical national shortage of cybersecurity professionals.
Identity Theft Expert
In 2004 Neal was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness. 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 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. Partners in the initiative include the international Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federal Trade Commission, the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, AARP, Civic, and Transunion. He has also been called on as an expert witness and as an advisor on data breach response.
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.
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. He’s also a member of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) K12 Committee, and a member of their national conference committee.
Neal 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.
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.
Speaker and Trainer
Neal has taught security to numerous audiences including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Ameriprise, Stifel Nicolaus, US Bank, US Trust, 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.
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.
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 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 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, 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.
On A Lighter Note
- Neal was supposed to be a dress maker and not a code maker, and the third generation to take over a famous Irish weaving company whose clients included Coco Chanel, Yves St Laurent, the Duchess of Westminster, and the Queen of Siam.
- Neal’s family (grand uncle and grand aunt) made Maureen O’Hara’s first movie in 1934.
- Neal’s cousin Michelle Dockery played Lady Mary Crawley on the hit TV series Downton Abbey.
- In the true spirit of the Irish immigrant, Neal came to America by boat, helping to deliver a newly built yacht from France to the Caribbean, via the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of West Africa, in the middle of Winter.