OPCD Cybersecurity Spotlight
For Cybersecurity Awareness Month, OPCD is excited to spotlight the members of our Technology Department leadership team, who spend their days and nights ensuring that all technological aspects of New Orleans 9-1-1 and NOLA-311 are fully functional and operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Join us throughout the remainder of Cybersecurity Awareness Month as the OPCD Technology Department director and managers give a sneak peek into their world of encryption, virus protection and data security. Not only will these interviews give us a chance to learn about who they are and what they do to protect the agency from cyber-attack, we’ll also find out how to better protect your data and devices from things like ransomware, phishing and malware from the people who do it for a living.
Our second interview of the OPCD Cybersecurity Spotlight series goes to OPCD Technical Operations Manager, Bill Irwin.
OPCD Technical Operations Manager Bill Irwin,
enjoying the momentary cool weather.
Bill – who began working for OPCD 14 years ago – is no newbie to cybersecurity strategies and tactics. His love of anything and everything technology-related was jump-started in the mid-to-late 1980’s while serving in the United States Navy. Once Bill had the “tech bug,” he sought out opportunities to dabble in tech-based exercises and activities, but it took a very special event for him to take his amateur technology enthusiasm to the next level. “I studied tech as a hobby for many years before doing it professionally, “said Bill. “The birth of my daughter is what finally made things ‘click’ for me, though. That was the day I decided to start taking this hobby seriously.”
Over the years, Bill took his passion for technology so seriously that began honing his skills specifically towards bettering the communities around him. This skillsets and dedication to his craft would ultimate led to Bill taking a position in public safety with OPCD as a System Engineer 1, where he quickly worked his way up the ladder to his current position as Technical Operations Manager.
During Bill’s time in public safety, cybersecurity – and teaching others how to keep their information safe from cyber-attack – has been a major focal point of his position. “When it comes to helping people and organizations protect their data,” said Bill, “the most important thing I try to do is train end-users to not click suspicious links or open anything unless they’re certain it is from a legitimate and reliable source.” [Note: “end-users” definition here]
“When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s not that people are necessarily going out of their way to skirt security protocols, or are lazy, or anything like that,” Bill continued. “Folks just form bad habits, unfortunately, and do not adjust security protocols as new threats emerge. On top of that, a lot of these cyber-attack tactics are tricky; they are literally designed to trick you into giving them access to your data or device. If someone does not know how to protect and/or back up their data efficiently, they can easily find themselves becoming a victim of one of these attacks.”
A good example of how tricky and dangerous cyber-attacks can be, and why people should not click unfamiliar links, is the ‘ILOVEYOU’ virus released in May 2000. “The ‘ILOVEYOU’ virus, actually used a fairly basic virus to attack people’s devices and data,” said Bill. “The tricky part about ‘I Love You’ was in the alterations to that simple virus that enticed people to click a link to find out who ‘loved’ them. It was presented as a game; as something harmless and playful. In the end, ‘ILOVEYOU’ was very effective, infecting and overwriting the files of more than ten million personal computers, and was covered by the news, internationally.”
Bill takes great pride in the training he provides to OPCD staff about how to protect themselves and the agency from cyber-attack. “Honestly, 90% of protecting yourself is just following a couple simple guidelines,” said Bill. “Another important, easy guideline I would suggest is to simply protect your passwords.
“Change your password, frequently,” Bill continued. “Do not use old passwords across any of your accounts. Use counter-intuitive randomly generated passwords. Using a password manager is a nearly effortless way to maintain all of these password protection practices” If you read our previous spotlight featuring OPCD Network Operations Manager, Ryan Eleew, you will find password protection to be a familiar cybersecurity theme.
Working in a field that protects people targeted by cyber-attacks, such as ILOVEYOU, is something in which Bill takes great pride. “I love what I do” Bill said. I love knowing that the work I do has the potential to significantly impact people’s lives in a positive way. The diversity in my role and the mission of OPCD also allows me to really explore new ways to create those positive impacts, which I genuinely appreciate.
“It’s also a pleasure to work in an office that proudly showcases OPCD’s #SHOWUP values,” Bill continued. “During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, OPCD Director of Technology, Karl Fasold, specifically built three Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) in the aftermath. I can’t even begin to explain how monumental that task was, especially during a time when resources and outside help were non-existent. His dedication to helping the people of this city, and his mind for innovation, truly inspire me to continuously #SHOWUP.”
Besides the love for his daughter and career, Bill talks about his love all things New Orleanian. “When the weather is not burst-into-flames hot,” Bill said, laughing, “I like being outside with my dogs, soaking in the city and as much of New Orleans culture as I can get.”
With temperatures starting to dip, we’ll keep an eye out for Bill and his pups in the streets and parks of New Orleans, enjoying his time off from protecting OPCD from cybersecurity threats.
Thank you, Bill, for your dedication to your work and for taking a moment to help us stay safer when it comes to cybersecurity. We are proud to have you and everyone on the OPCD Technology Team supporting the City of New Orleans and our Heroes Under the Headset.
If you enjoyed learning about OPCD Technical Operations Manager, Bill Irwin, and the ILOVEYOU virus, share this article on your social network so others can enjoy it as well. And remember to keep an eye out all of October as we release more OPCD Cybersecurity Spotlights with our Technology leadership during Cybersecurity Awareness Month.