With relentless diligence and often serving up a sense of humor that makes the serious work of cyber security gatekeeping palatable to our staff, Avalex Technologies IT Director, Brad Meredith, defends our company’s infrastructure from the world’s cyber security threats while teaching the Avalex team how to maintain the credentials required by our primary customers, those tasked with national defense. Much like our DoD customers, his defense role requires both a warrior’s mindset and work schedule. Brad recently shared his perspective about the job:

As an IT Director, how would you describe your role at Avalex?

“I run the Avalex infrastructure, which includes networking, servers, and backup systems, but all that’s extremely boring and geeky… So, let’s focus on what’s hot: the culture of Cyber Security.

We know that being a defense contractor puts us on the front lines in the Cyber Security War. I take that very seriously. My primary role then, in a nutshell, is to be the digital Armed Forces that defends Avalex in the Cyber Security War.

I protect our interests and those of our partners with the mentality of a military organization – I identify threats and put counter measures in place to reduce or eliminate those threats. This might mean configuring an Intrusion Prevention System on a firewall to thwart an incoming attack or working with end users to help them identify email borne phishing attacks. End users are on the front lines; making sure they stay informed on how to be part of that Cyber Security Force by practicing due diligence and remaining vigilant to the threats that we face daily is paramount. As such, administering training for our end users focused on proactive ways to ward off the often unexpected and seemingly innocuous dangers that we encounter in the digital world daily is a priority.”

Can you share a recent example of something that staff might not have expected was a threat?

“The night is dark and full of terrors, but most users are oblivious to those dangers. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent directives to work from remote, the potential for those disasters increases exponentially. How? Well, from an organizational standpoint a bad actor (hacker) needs a door to get into your network. Every single user that works from remote means creating another door that a bad actor could potentially use. Things like multi-factor authentication, strong password policies, and due diligence from end users are paramount. It falls on us in Information Technology to find a way to let the good guys in but keep the bad guys out.”

Given the responsibility and level of pressure involved in this role, do you find time to relax? If so, what do you do?

“I certainly try. When I’m not actively engaged in counter warfare, I boat on the Sound with family and friends, coach youth sports at the Gulf Breeze rec center (baseball, basketball, soccer), play the guitar (poorly), and cheer passionately for Auburn University Sports (War Eagle!) Sometimes I’m enlisted to play (poorly) on an Avalex golf team, which is a nice mix of work and fun.”

Do you have any thoughts on the future of Cyber Security? Is there an end to the War in sight?

“An End? No. This war is just beginning, and if we continue to demand technology easy buttons and demand them immediately, we won’t win many battles, much less the war. Imagine if you will a sliding scale: On one end you have EASY – on the other end you have SECURE. The closer you get to one, the farther away you get from the other. Historically, we slid that as far toward EASY as we could and just ran with it, ignoring the wailing of those digital bodyguards pleading for caution. The results?  Just open your favorite news medium and note how many stories you read about data breaches in big name organizations. It’s shocking. End? Oh no, this is just getting started.

Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom. We are starting to listen to the cyber security officers when they plead for caution and consideration for security. Right now, the adversary still has the advantage, we are still playing catch up to zero day threats and finding out about our security flaws because they have been exploited, but I believe we will soon start making progress towards reversing that trend. No, the War will never end, but we will get better at tilting the battles in our favor.”

 

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