Neal O’Farrell is considered one of the world’s leading “people” security experts, the culmination of three decades of experience in global cybersecurity.
Neal has been fighting cybercrime and identity theft around the world for nearly 35 years, which would make him one of the most experienced personal security experts on the planet. He’s also one of the early pioneers of security education and training – it’s been more than a quarter of a century since he co-hosted with IBM one of Europe’s very first network security conferences.
Over his three decades in the industry 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. And it’s been nearly fifteen years since he first started building employee security awareness programs, for retailers like Cost Plus World Market and bebe Stores, to pharmaceutical firms and universities.
He began his career in the financial services industry in the 1980s protecting European banks from the first generation of hackers. In the late 1980s he won the first ever contract to encrypt Ireland’s entire national ATM network, and later installed the first two-factor authentication system in an Irish bank. He also went on to develop the first voice verification-based phone banking access control system for Britain’s largest bank. Today they call it biometrics.
Neal was one of the first Directors of Education ever appointed by a security company (ZoneAlarm, now part of Check Point), in 2000. That was also the same year, as a writer for SearchSecurity.com, that he coined the term “the Human Perimeter” as part of a series of articles on the growing importance of employee security awareness.
Neal was a co-founder of the Center for Information Security Awareness, a partnership with FBI/InfraGard to provide free employee security awareness training for individuals and small businesses. Neal created the entire course, test, and certification, and that course has since been accessed by thousands of organizations. In 2002 he launched Hackademia, one of the first companies to offer cybersecurity courses online. Hackademia is now part of the University of Washington.
In 2003 he launched the nation’s very first Cyber Secure City, a unique experiment to train an entire city – residents, businesses, schools, even the Mayor and city council – in cybersecurity and identity theft awareness. 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. In 2004 he was the first expert to train an entire police department in identity theft awareness.
In addition to developing security training programs, Neal is also the Executive Director of 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 works 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 was also 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 in September 2015.
Neal has advised numerous companies on breach prevention and response, and was a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Cybersecurity Roundtable where he helped develop their online cybersecurity planning tool. He was also the only security expert invited to advise the Congressionally-mandated Stock Act panel in 2013 and has taught security to numerous audiences including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Ameriprise, Stifel Nicolaus, 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.
A passionate security educator, 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.
His book on identity theft has been used by three of the top five U.S. banks to educate their customers on identity theft prevention. He is 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.
He has acted 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.