Interview with Reginald Robinson
The following profile is the fourteenth in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: Cybersecurity Systems Engineer, Information Systems Division at Walmart
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Master of Science in Cybersecurity Studies and Graduate Certificate in Digital Forensics at American Public University
What have you been doing since earning your bachelor’s degree in information technology at APU?
Currently, I’m working on getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity studies and a graduate certificate in digital forensics at American Public University. While I continue my education, I’m working as a cybersecurity systems engineer in the Security Department in the Information Systems Division at Walmart. Also, I’ve been working with the Million Women Mentors program in Arkansas, which is an initiative to get more women into STEM majors.
What led you to choose a master’s degree in cybersecurity studies with APU?
I chose to get a master’s degree in cybersecurity studies because I like the challenge of trying to outthink criminals who use advanced technology and other techniques to infiltrate networks for their benefit. Cybersecurity is a field that explores the thinking of cyber criminals and explains the different techniques utilized in committing cybercrimes.
Also, another reason I chose cybersecurity is that it is one of the most important topics for many companies now and in the future. A company wants to protect their customers from personal privacy intrusions and credit card information theft.
Tell us about your position at your employer.
Currently, my position as a cybersecurity systems engineer deals with the identity management aspect of cybersecurity. Identity management is ensuring that the person who logs into an application, a server or a database is actually that person. Cybersecurity professionals use different methods to verify that the correct people gain access to various systems.
One method that is utilized is user access review campaigns. It involves reviewing the access for all users to certain applications, servers and databases.
With a company as large as Walmart, constant activity occurs in different departments. This requires reviews to make sure the correct people have the right access. The goal is to provide as little access as possible in order for Walmart associates to perform their jobs.
Is your current program at APU helping you prepare you for specific challenges you’ve come across?
My current program at APU helps me add new methods for dealing with identity management. Breaches occur all over the world and a lot of the stolen data is credit card information for many people.
Financial institutions can replace stolen money. However, when a person’s identity is stolen, the thief has the potential to open numerous accounts, including accounts at the victim’s employer, because people commonly use the same credentials for multiple accounts.
The APU program shows how other companies handle their identity management and gives examples of successful methods in the handling of identity management. Also, the program shows the methods that cyber criminals utilize to get around identity management. Students develop techniques to block some of those methods.
Staying secure is one of the main concerns for businesses and civilians today. How do you feel your classes are preparing you to handle these types of concerns in the field?
The classes that I take at APU help me get into the correct mindset to secure different businesses and organizations. A lot of people believe that they know the correct way to prevent intrusions and help secure businesses or organizations.
However, cybersecurity professionals need to understand how to view cybersecurity from a criminal’s mindset and the main objectives criminals have when they try to infiltrate a business or organization. My classes helped me realize that a lot of breaches occur using unsophisticated techniques. More intrusions result from cybercriminals seeing opportunities or the failure of users to be more secure with their security operations.
Also, the classes teach me that the most important deterrent to cyber intrusions is user education. A large majority of intrusions occur due to the lack of cyber security education on the user’s part. This lack of cyber security education leads to many users opening doors for cyber criminals to infiltrate a system or network.
Are you looking to specialize in the field of cybersecurity?
Currently, my long-term goal is to complete my master’s degree in cybersecurity and my graduate certificate in digital forensics in April of 2017. Then I’m going to utilize those skills I learned to pursue a doctorate in information technology or computer science, with a focus on data assurance or another aspect of cyber security.
What intrigues you most about the field?
I am an avid gamer who loves solving issues and out-thinking others in ways that get goals accomplished. The cybersecurity field is similar to gaming in the methods of out-thinking criminals and preventing intrusions into networks.
Cybersecurity allows for different types of thinking that some people may believe is outside of the box, but this is the same type of thinking that cyber criminals utilize when they plan an infiltration of a business, organization or network. This field teaches you how to think like a cybercriminal and provides insight into how the goals of cyber criminals changed over the years. The understanding of cybercriminal thinking gives you a step up in the process of preventing unnecessary breaches.
Is there a particular class or professor at APU that stood out to you?
One class that stood out to me while I worked on my master’s degree was computer forensics. This class showed how criminals use different techniques to acquire data from computers when those criminals are doing their best to hide or delete information. Although the data is out of sight from users, the data can still exist on the computer and provide answers to crimes committed by cybercriminals.
The class showed the different lengths criminals will go through in order to hide information and prevent it from being discovered by other people. The class introduced me to different software and methodologies that can be used to get the most information possible from a computer that is being examined during an investigation.
What are two key pieces of advice you would pass on to another cyber professional and student?
One key piece of advice for another cyber professional and students is to be an avid reader. There is information regarding cybersecurity coming out daily. In order to know the constant changes in cybersecurity, you should read as much information as possible.
One article could provide vital insight to solve a major security issue that may occur in a company or organization. The type of information that you should read is technical information as well as cybersecurity case studies.
Another key piece of advice is to make sure you have a technical understanding on how to work with different programming languages. You don’t have to be a programmer, but you need to have at least a simple understanding of programming and how to work with networks.
Many cyber criminals utilize programs in methods that are completely opposite of what those programs were intended for, but the software helps them meet their goals. People with a simple understanding of programming can at least inform others that there is something unusual about the code in that program. They can notify others that there is a possibility that the code causes a vulnerability that can be utilized by a cybercriminal.
What is your favorite thing about online learning?
One of my favorite things about online learning is the flexibility in the system. Online learning allows you to work on your assignments whenever you have free time.
With online learning, you have the ability to work or take a vacation, but still get your necessary forum posts done and your assignments completed as long as there is Internet access available. For example, I was sick and in the hospital. But I still had the opportunity to get to my forums and complete assignments because the hospital had Internet access.
What do you like to do in your free time?
One thing I love to do in my free time is play video games. They’re usually formatted with first-person shooters or they are athletic games where a strategy is needed in order to win the game.
Also, I like to play with different applications that are utilized in the cybersecurity field like Wireshark and Magnet RAM capture. I enjoy using these applications to get a better understanding of what they provide and what aspects of the applications will lead to detection by cybersecurity intrusion detection systems.