Spotlight on Alumni

Daniel Peck Devotes Career to Keeping Information Secure

Degree and graduation year:

BSCS 2005

Where do you live (city & state/country)?

Decatur, GA

What do you do for a living?

I split my time between researching new security vulnerabilities and mitigation technologies in control systems (SCADA/DCS/etc) under the Department of Homeland Security / Department of Energy Initiatives, and performing security assessments at various infrastructural organizations (electrical generation/distribution, oil and gas, manufacturing, etc) around the United States and abroad. On occasion, I speak at conferences or conduct training events.  I’m very interested in embedded systems, and lately I’m starting to do more study on various wireless communication methods.

What was your first job after leaving Georgia Tech?

My first job was working at a locally managed security services provider, primarily focused on developing protections for financial clients (banks and credit unions mostly).  My days were spent tracking the latest vulnerabilities and discovering new ways to defend against attacks.

What do you like best about your current job?

There’s something new to learn every day.  Much of the worlds critical infrastructure is wide open for attack, and operating under a security model that doesn't work in a world where connectivity is the rule rather than the exception.  It’s a daily thrill to take apart technology that “keeps the lights on” and discover how someone might attack it.

What do you like the least?

Often the work (security critical infrastructure as a whole) seems to be far greater than what we can accomplish in a reasonable length of time, and many groups out there are ignoring solutions that work now and solve 90% of the problems and wasting resources chasing a 100% solution that will likely never be completed.

How did CoC prepare you for the working world?

The CoC gave me an incredible foundation in software design, theory and practice that allows me to understand problems quickly …  and, occasionally, to find solutions quickly.

What do you consider the single greatest advance—technological, sociological, economic, etc.—in computing since you were in school? 

The biggest advancement is our raised awareness of security issues in computing.  When I entered Tech, computer crime stories were “fringe” news.  Now, words like identity theft, cybercrime, and recently cyber war are common in mainstream news media and casual conversation.

Operating system of choice:

There’s a tool that’s right for every job.  I probably use Linux mostly, but I also use Windows, and I deal with systems from HPUX to VxWorks on a regular basis.

What do you remember and/or value the most about your time at Georgia Tech/CoC?

After surviving the gauntlet of sophomore classes (Languages and Translation, Introduction to Systems, Introduction to Software Engineering, and whatever that terrible Squeak class was) I remember having the feeling that, with those under my belt, I could solve just about any problem given enough time.  I lost a lot of the “wonder” I had, but it was replaced it with real understanding.

What faculty or staff member had the greatest impact on you?

Though I ended up dropping the class (if you want to write search algorithms for a living, be my guest, I'll never compete with you for a job), I'd have to say Thad Starner, who beat into my head the phrase, “Do the dumb thing first.”

In your spare time, what do you do for fun?

During spring and summer I like to go fishing (deep sea mostly), or travel with my wife.  In the fall, if there’s a GT home game, I'm tailgating at Bobby Dodd Stadium.  If there’s an away game, I’m camped out in front of the TV for as much of the day as I can put aside to watch the games with friends.

If I had it to do over again, I’d be a ______

The same thing I am doing now, but I'd have taken a few more elective classes at the EE School.

Are any of your family members CoC/GT alumni?

No one in the CoC, but my aunt and her husband were EE grads.

Do you stay in touch with other computing alumni?  If so, who?

I’m still in touch with many of the alumni from my fraternity (Theta Xi), especially Brian Adle, Adam Edwards, Shaun Dishman and Bryan Billings. Also former colleagues David Maynor, Sean Caufield, and Nick Chapman.

Are you a member of an online community?  If so which one(s)?

I have a LinkedIn profile for business use.  And I'm a regular contributor to my company's blog,  Otherwise, I’m on a few mailing lists for various software products or other areas of interest.

Anything else you’d like to share? Here’s your chance!

To Hell with Georgia!