Neal O’Farrell, the founder of Schooled In Security, is not only one of the world's longest serving security and privacy experts, he's probably the least likely expert too.
Although he's advised governments, banks, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies, he has never written a line of code in his life. Instead, he studied marketing in his home town of Dublin, Ireland so he could be the third generation to take over a hundred-year-old family fashion business whose clients included a who's who of the world’s rich and famous – from Coco Chanel and Yves St Laurent to the Duchess of Westminster and the Queen of Siam.
His fallback plan was filmmaking. His Grand Uncle, author Michael Farrell, made Maureen O’Hara’s first movie, when she was just 14 years old. His cousin Michelle Dockery played Lady Mary Crawley on the hit TV series Downton Abbey. A Humphrey Bogart fan from when he was a young teenager, when he was seventeen Neal ran away from home, hitchhiked his way through Europe and Morocco, and ended up in Casablanca.
Neal got hooked on security in 1980 when a college friend showed him how a simple floppy disk could be used to steal passwords. Today he's regarded as one of the world’s first security and privacy experts and has been fighting cybercrime and identity theft around the world for more than 35 years,.
And after more than 20 years living in places like London and San Francisco, he now calls Cincinnati Ohio his home.
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. 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. He was a member of the first Federal Communications Commissions’ 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 is passionate about the importance of educating users to defeat cyber threats, and in 1988 co-hosted with IBM one of Europe's first network security conferences. In 2000 he was appointed the first ever Director of Education for a security company (ZoneAlarm, now Check Point).
The following year Neal wrote a 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.
In 2001 Neal was invited to Chair the first "Cybercrime on Wall Street" conference hosted by the Institute for International Research (IIR). In 2002 he launched Hacademia, 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 for one of the first in the Hack Proofing series, "Hack Proofing Your Wireless Network."
In 2003 Neal led Think Security First!, a unique experiment to raise the security awareness of an entire city – residents, businesses, schools, even the Mayor and city council. 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.
Neal created Schooled In Security, a non-profit initiative to bring cybersecurity education to high schools and encourage students to pursue careers in cybersecurity to help address the critical national shortage of cybersecurity professionals. He was also a member of the advisory board of California's first Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program, based in Silicon Valley.
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 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. 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 participant in both the Education and Workforce and Cyber Club Subcommittees of OC3, the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee.
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 Civic Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup using blockchain to solve identity verification challenges. He is currently an advisor to Adaptable Security, biometrics startup Taliware, and a Fellow of the EP3 Foundation.
Neal has taught security to numerous audiences including Facebook, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Ameriprise, Merrill Lynch, 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.