Cyber Work Podcast

Join us in the fight against cybercrime with weekly conversations about cybersecurity skills, jobs and industry trends.

New guests. New conversations. All career advice.
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Previous Cyber Work episodes

Protecting sensitive information: Growing data, regulations and risks

The amount of data organizations hold has exploded — along with the risk it poses. Today’s guest is Very Good Security CEO and co-founder Mahmoud Abdelkader, who wants to solve the problem of sensitive data by removing it from the equation (by replacing it with decoy data). It’s an intriguing idea as having less worry about data security frees resources up to focus on other areas of cybersecurity. Mahmoud talks about the future of data security, how these new solutions do and don’t help with privacy regulations, and what cybersecurity professionals can do to prepare for a future where the amount of data continues to grow every year.

Mahmoud Abdelkader is the CEO and co-founder of Very Good Security. He was previously CTO and co-founder of Balanced Payments (exited to Stripe). Prior to that, Mahmoud designed automated product matching systems at (acquired by eBay) and built high-frequency trading systems for Wachovia Securities, now a part of Wells Fargo. With experience ranging from Wall Street to early-stage startups, Mahmoud is passionate about democratizing data security. He started Very Good Security to make best-in-class security and compliance attainable for businesses of all sizes.
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Security awareness: How to influence others and change behavior

Bruce Hallas has a lot to say about security awareness and the fostering of security culture throughout an organization. His podcast, “Rethinking the Human Factor,” is now also a book, and he recently spoke at our Infosec Inspire Cyber Skills Virtual Summit. On today’s episode, Bruce talks about changing behaviors rather than setting rules, new ways to think about security awareness, and different industry and job search tips, particularly for those who want to get involved with cybersecurity in a totally non-technical capacity.

Bruce Hallas is an enthusiastic advocate, consultant, trainer and speaker in the field of information security awareness, behavior and culture. He has worked over 20 years as an information security manager, practice manager and consultant to lead and support positive change that helps organizations manage risk. As creator of the SABC™ (Security Awareness, Behavior & Culture) Framework, Bruce advocates the role of the human factor in information security through speaking engagements and his "Re-thinking the Human Factor" podcast and book.
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Red teamers arrested conducting a penetration test

The story of today's guests is ripped straight from the headlines. Gary DeMercurio and Justin Wynn, both of the company Coalfire, were arrested at the Dallas County Courthouse while doing red team pentesting for the State of Iowa’s judicial branch. Their story is fascinating, and they discuss that fateful night as well as ways in which similar incidents could be avoided in the future. You can’t be too timid as a red teamer, they say. "If you're bragging as a red teamer about how you've never been caught, you're not pushing the operation as far as you should. You SHOULD be caught sometimes."

Gary DeMercurio runs one of the largest groups in Coalfire Labs as a Senior Manager working with technologies every day. His expertise focuses on social engineering, physical testing and network devices. At Coalfire, Gary manages day-to-day business involved with FedRAMP, PCI, HIPPA and penetration testing, while helping to spearhead the physical and social engineering portion of testing.

As a Senior Security Consultant, Justin Wynn is responsible for actively compromising and reporting on virtual environments typically encountered at Fortune 500 companies. Justin performs wireless, physical, red team and social engineering engagements. Justin also conducts research to include the production of open-source models for printing/milling to aid in red team engagements, with specific regard to tool gaps in the locksport industry as well as master keys for access control/elevator overrides. Currently, Justin is researching security vulnerabilities in various RFID devices.
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Starting a cybersecurity business and building a diverse workforce

Despite being told she was “too young, too inexperienced, and too naïve” to contribute anything to the industry, Christine Izuakor decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Security Engineering at the age of 23. Four years later she completed the program, making her the youngest student and first African American woman to do so. On today’s episode, Dr. Izuakor talks about being a security engineering prodigy, hiring for a diverse workforce and her new company, Cyber Pop-up, an on-demand cybersecurity service platform powered by vetted freelancers.

Christine Izuakor is a Houston native, born of two parents who immigrated to America from Nigeria to pursue higher education. Starting from humble beginnings, Christine has always been motivated to maximize on the opportunities her parents and community created for her. In 2013, Christine decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Security Engineering at the University of Colorado. Her research contributions were published in numerous international journals, and she presented in international conferences from South Korea to Rome, Italy. During this entire journey, Dr. Izuakor also maintained a full-time job within the cyber security team of a Fortune 100 company.

Most recently, in 2020, Dr. Christine Izuakor shook up the industry with her departure from the corporate arena coupled with the launch of her new cybersecurity startup, Cyber Pop-up (, an on-demand cybersecurity service platform powered by vetted freelancers.
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Cloud security best practices and career tips

What exactly is the cloud? And how do you secure infrastructure that is not your own? On today’s episode, Oliver Tavakoli, chief technology officer at Vectra AI, discusses current cloud security best practices as well as tips he’s picked up during his 25-year cybersecurity career. He also has some good advice for people thinking of starting their own company (hint: have cash saved up, you're going to be money-losing for quite a while!).

Oliver Tavakoli is a technologist who has alternated between working for large and small companies throughout his 25-year career – he is clearly doing the latter right now. Prior to joining Vectra AI, Oliver spent more than seven years at Juniper as chief technical officer for the security business. Oliver joined Juniper as a result of its acquisition of Funk Software, where he was CTO and better known as developer #1 for Steel-Belted Radius. Prior to joining Funk Software, Oliver co-founded Trilogy Inc., and prior to that, he did stints at Novell, Fluent Machines and IBM. Oliver received an MS in mathematics and a BA in mathematics and computer science from the University of Tennessee.
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Job hunting tips for cybersecurity professionals

Learn all about cybersecurity job hunting with Eric Jeffery, senior managing consultant and solutions architect for IBM Security. Eric created the "Cyber Security Gray Beard" podcast to share his job experiences and help others advance their careers so they too can enjoy professional happiness in the cybersecurity industry. We dive deep into job hunting, rebounding if you've been fired or let go, ways non-technical people can make an impact in cybersecurity and other types of career advice he dispenses on his show.

Eric Jeffery has over 20 years’ experience in cybersecurity and currently works as a senior managing consultant and solutions architect for IBM Security. Eric has extensive industry experience with stints in entertainment, defense, aerospace, healthcare and technology, among others. He’s published numerous articles and spoken at several conferences around the U.S. and Canada. He runs a podcast under the moniker of Cyber Security Grey Beard® where he helps students and early professionals begin and grow in the cybersecurity field. Eric lives outside of Denver, Colorado, with his wife and has four grown children.
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About the Cyber Work Podcast

Knowledge is your best defense against cybercrime. Each week on Cyber Work, host Chris Sienko sits down with a new industry thought leader to discuss the latest cybersecurity trends — and how those trends are affecting the work of infosec professionals. Together we’ll empower everyone with the knowledge to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Chris Sienko

Cyber Work Host

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