Cyber Talk Radio: CNF Technologies' New Cyber Lab at Port San Antonio

Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and Steve Barish, chief operating officer at CNF Technologies - Episode 152 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Saturday, August 24, episode 152 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Steve Barish, chief operating officer at government cyber contractor CNF Technologies, to discuss their new cyber lab at Port San Antonio.

Before we begin chatting, I make sure to to mention that we’ve had a previous guest from CNF Technologies on Cyber Talk Radio, Andy Pilato, their chief technology officer, to discuss cybersecurity training — here’s the recap and replay of that episode from last year. Now, it’s time to talk with Steve about how the cyber lab in the Project Tech building at Port San Antonio is filling up with CNF employees and is looking to fill it up soon — they’re hoping to hire 50-75 people over the next few months. Visit CNF’s website or LinkedIn page for current job postings — they’re on the lookout for engineering and computer science talent. CNF has had great luck hiring graduates from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), St. Mary’s University and Trinity University as well as military veterans. One question that Steve hears a lot is: How do I get into the business if I don’t have security clearance? Steve says that you don’t need a preexisting security clearance at CNF, but any position at a company like this can open doors for a later security clearance. CNF really straddles the line of being a contractor, and instead really does more research and development. Steve and I talk about some of the new and exciting projects happening at Port San Antonio and Project Tech, including the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) challenge. Are there any specific certifications that CNF looks for in hiring? Always hiring security analysts with a certified ethical hacker certification. They're also looking for anyone who is development oriented — either a degree or great proficiency. In general, they want to hire people who are compelled to solve puzzles and problems — people who have strong critical thinking skills. How has CNF gotten involved in the San Antonio community? CNF sponsors RowdyHacks — a 24 hour long hackathon at UTSA. They also sponsor multiple capture the flag style events in town as well. They are also trying to hire more out of local programming bootcamps like Codeup and Rackspace Open Cloud Academy — though a downside to the fast turnaround for these bootcamps is that students don’t have practical exposure to deeper more analytical programming challenges. Before the break, Steve and I sing the praises of CyberPatriot — another way they like to get involved. It’s a cybersecurity team sport in local schools and is looking to expand in the city’s south and east sides to increase cyber talent.

After the break, I get Steve to share how he got into the cybersecurity industry and his current role. He explains that he really got tricked into working in cybersecurity! He was an Air Force ROTC cadet and worked in satellite systems engineering, and eventually moved up to flight tests. He got recruited to go to Kelly Air Force Base, so he moved to San Antonio, fell in love with the talent and ending up meeting his current boss at CNF. After 15 years of doing contracting work at Kelly, Steve took a risk to go over to CNF. I ask Steve to give our listeners some careers advice, and he sure gave some good answers! Don’t underestimate your abilities, since a lot of executive-level positions need to have someone who is prepared to jump in and take over at the right time. He recommended some books and emphasizes the importance of understanding risk management as an executive and leader. Never stop learning and researching in the industry — stay current and take an interest in what’s new. CNF offers internships — if someone is interested, what should they do? UTSA also has programs with CNF that students can access through the university. 100 percent of their interns have been converted to full-time employees — creating pipelines starting from high school and college is a great way to recruit and shape good talent! Before we close out the episode, we talk about a trending topic, the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart objects in the home can create security risks because they all have vulnerabilities and can be manipulated to harm you and your info. Ask yourself if you actually need them, or if you’re just being lazy. We talk about how alarming it is when you try hacking your own stuff for fun — you’ll see just how easily it’s done by the bad guys.

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about CNF Technologies.

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