Presenting at the world’s largest hacking conference might be intimidating for some, but not for Evan Pena,’11, an information assurance and security graduate from the UTSA College of Business. Pena will present today at Defcon, a hacker convention in Las Vegas with over 10,000 attendees ranging from hackers to cyber security experts.
Pena, an associate consultant at Mandiant in Alexandria, Virginia, will present on “Got Spies in the Wires?”
“My presentation will focus on cutting-edge attacks that we’ve witnessed in the industry this past year,” said Pena, who has been in the D.C. area one year. “Attackers are deploying new malware techniques that look like legitimate network traffic. We will show how to detect and remediate against this problem.”
A graduate of Reagan High School, Pena was always interested in computers and enrolled in the college’s information systems and security program. Pena credits the faculty in UTSA’s program with preparing him to be successful in the security industry. In particular, courses with Nicole Beebe, assistant professor, and Robert Kaufman, senior lecturer and director of the Air Force Information Operations Center in San Antonio.
“I can’t thank UTSA enough for the education that I received,” he said. “I gained valuable real world experiences in my programming, networking and forensics classes. I use those skills daily.”
While at UTSA, Pena was active with the Computer Security Association (CSA) and participated in “capture the flag” and National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions. “We had a good group in the CSA at the time,” said Pena, who is 25 years old. “We met regularly, gave presentations and had industry experts come talk to us.”
Upon graduation, Pena was looking to break into the security field—a hard field to transition into. A friend from the CSA recommended him to someone in the industry, and ultimately he ended up in Washington, D.C. working for Northrop Grumman.
When the contract he was working on was coming to an end, he transitioned to Mandiant, a leader in the cyber security industry that works with Fortune 500 companies as well as government agencies.
“I have the opportunity to work with individuals who are the best of the best in the industry,” said Pena, who is pursuing a graduate degree at George Mason in the management of secure information systems. “At Mandiant we respond to the compromise, determine how they got in and what information they took, devise a plan to stop the attack and quarantine and remediate the systems that are compromised.”
Pena’s advice for not getting hacked, “Be diligent, savvy and educate yourself about security risks. A lot of the hacks are simply phishing attempts through e-mail.”
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