Jeff Teo holds more than fifteen years of experience in cybersecurity expertise. After he left Singapore to pursue an educational path in the United States, he became fascinated by the cybersecurity field and has continued improving his competencies ever since. Given the recent partnership between LCC International University and Cybint Solutions, Dr.Teo will be facilitating the Cybersecurity Bootcamp to increase the number of well-qualified cybersecurity professionals in this evolving area, an important goal of his Fulbright initiative.
Can you briefly tell me about yourself?
I was born and raised in Singapore and grew up in an environment that included many church-related activities. During this time Singapore was undergoing tremendous economic changes. In the last fifty years, it progressed from surviving as a developing country to becoming a first world nation. After Secondary School, I earned an Associate’s degree from Singapore Polytechnic, followed by national (military) service. I was commissioned as an officer in the Singapore military and spent two and a half years there. But even though I had completed my national service and earned an associate’s degree, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go beyond and get a bachelor’s degree from a university so, in 1987, I left to study in the United States.
Shortly after, I met my wife, we got married and moved to Wisconsin where I did my PhD. After spending twelve and a half years in Wisconsin, we eventually moved to North Carolina, where I became a Professor of Cybersecurity at Montreat College. Later, in 2017, I was appointed Professor of Cybersecurity and Chair of the Department at Bluefield College. As of now, it has been a year since I came to Lithuania with the Fulbright Faculty Scholar program hosted by LCC International University.
What motivated or fascinated you the most in cybersecurity to choose it as a field of expertise in your career path?
I have always had an affinity for technology and engineering. I was always interested in what technology can do and the promise of technology, but also a good understanding of engineering. I saw the need for cybersecurity based on the advances in technology. When you have a background in engineering you tend to think in a systems way and when I realized how quickly the internet was developing, and how vulnerable it had become, I realized that general security did not have as important a foundational building block as it has now. As everything became more connected, I saw the need for better security for the systems, let it be small businesses, large companies or individuals. I want to focus on solving problems and improving cybersecurity expertise in Lithuania.
You got involved in cybersecurity many years ago, but this field still seems pretty new. Were there any active cyber-threats and attacks?
I was already researching the cybersecurity field and things were already happening. They were not necessarily covered as they are nowadays, because with the explosion of social media the news got amplified. It did not take long to speculate that there were problems ahead. Even though we were not as connected as we are now, it is merely a matter of time when more systems get connected as the rate of technology adoption continues.
Cybersecurity provides a range of different career possibilities. How did you end up becoming a Professor?
I have always enjoyed and wanted to be a part of the teaching environment. Spending many years in this environment, I saw my professional growth over the years in this field and it was very positive. When you experience something good and right for you, you want more of it! So, I continue to want to be in the area of education, knowing that at the end of the day, the best way to address cybersecurity is the promotion of awareness and learning in the environment of professionals.
Recently, LCC partnered with Cybint Solutions to launch a cybersecurity Bootcamp and you became the appointed professor. What are your thoughts on this new chapter for LCC?
I came to know about Cybint Solutions a year ago and was attracted to the framework that they offered. My systems background says if you follow a system or framework, then your results can be measurable and scalable. Cybint is astute to embrace the U.S. NICE framework for their training platform. Seeing the way technology is advancing, I am happy to help LCC International University create an environment that increases cybersecurity expertise with such a thoughtful partner. This has created a solid foundation for cybersecurity training at LCC. I feel that our partnership through the Bootcamp will allow us to produce competent cybersecurity professionals to fill the current skill gaps in this industry.
During the Bootcamp the students will learn the ins and outs of what it takes to be an entry-level cybersecurity analysist while guided and mentored by me as the facilitator. This is akin to a trainee pilot learning to fly in a flight simulator while benefiting from the flight instructor who guides and mentors the trainee.
What do you think about the cybersecurity situation in Lithuania in general? Do we pay enough attention to it compared to other countries?
The good news is Lithuania is well-positioned to meet cyber threats. According to the National Cyber Security Index, which measures the preparedness of 160 countries worldwide as to their ability to prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents, Lithuania is ranked #4. Yet, the cybersecurity landscape is ever-evolving and changing, as evidenced in increasing cyber threats faced by Lithuania and worldwide.
How does the Cybersecurity Bootcamp work? What is the structure of the program itself, its key aspects, will participants get a certificate, and is it important to have it overall?
The Cybint Cybersecurity platform provides bootcampers with the hands-on, practical skills needed to perform tasks to mitigate cyber threats and manage cyber incidents. Bootcampers will acquire important skills and knowledge in network administration, network and application security, incident handling, forensics, malware analysis, ethical hacking & incident response, secure design principles, threat intelligence, risk management, and complete a final project. Bootcampers will receive a certificate upon successful completion of the program. I have extensive experience in various learning environments and Cybint’s training platform is among the best. As a successful bootcamper of the Cybint/LCC program, a participant will be working for businesses, corporations and government agencies that face the persistent challenge of finding and recruiting skilled cybersecurity professionals who are capable of protecting systems against cyber threats.
What would you say are the key skills people should have that would guarantee a successful career in cybersecurity?
Be willing to learn, constantly. The threats are ever-evolving and cybersecurity professionals need to stay abreast of the current threat landscape. Think creatively, ask the question ‘what would a threat actor do if they desire to breach a network’? It also pays to be detail-oriented. Cybersecurity professionals need to ensure security patches are properly patched and current. The adage of ‘trust but verify’ will definitely apply to this space. Cybersecurity professionals work in teams and therefore soft-skills such as communication, both verbal and written, plus inter-department interactions in an organization are important aspects to cultivate. And yes, cultivating healthy habits and a balanced life-style will help you thrive and be productive in this exciting field.
What does the future hold for you?
I am so excited about helping LCC International University’s engagement and contribution in meeting the skill gaps in cybersecurity. This would not have been possible without the Fulbright Faculty program whose goal was to increase the program capacity of cybersecurity expertise. What is heartening to me is the coming together of Fulbright, LCC and Cybint, laying a sound foundation for increasing cybersecurity expertise Lithuania.