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Cyber security expert keeps information away from criminals

by Eric Hodies

Click for Larger Image
Business owner Julius McCloud has a passion for helping fellow entrepreneurs protect their data

Julius McCloud is a computer hacker. But before anyone alerts the authorities, itís important to note that Julius is a computer hacker with permission. Actually, businesses and the military hire Julius to specifically task him with hacking into their networks. And itís not just unclassified networks and programs ó itís the militaryís top secret ones, too. In the end, sensitive data is safer and more secure because of his efforts.

Julius is founder and owner of Independent Verification and Validation Network Security LLC (IV&V NETSEC). "Weíre a specialized information and cyber security company," he explains. "As a third party, we perform checks and audits to determine whether user requirements are being met while also ensuring the network or product is sound and built to the required specifications. Weíre dedicated to safeguarding business and military assets and neutralizing potential threats."

Born in Chicago but raised by his grandmother in Union City, Tennessee, Julius entered the Navy in 1986 under the seaman apprentice program. "I wanted to serve my country, and I felt like the Navy was my best opportunity to learn a skill," he relates.

After two years, he volunteered for submarine duty and achieved his Electronics Technician rating. While stationed at Norfolk Naval Station, he was handpicked into the Enlisted Commissioning Program where he received his commission.

Julius graduated with honors from Norfolk State University with a degree in Electronics Engineering. In 1999, he received his Masters of Science in Management from Troy State University and was immediately commissioned as a Cryptologist/Information Warfare Officer.

His work took him to various Navy commands where he was responsible for intrusion detection monitoring, information assurance management and network vulnerability assessments.

Julius received numerous decorations during his career, and as Vulnerabilities Officer for the Navy Incident Response Team, he helped shape and build the command into its present state.

"The best compliment is when a customer sees us as part of their team."

ó Julius McCloud

"I retired from the Navy in 2007 and worked for several contractors," he recalls. "By 2009, I knew the time was right to start my own business. IV&V NETSEC LLC is appointed as a Corporate Navy Certification Agent which satisfies the stringent requirements necessary to work for Navy commands.

"To remain in compliance, all DOD and Navy networks are required to be tested annually with certification of their networks required every three years," he adds. "I scan networks with authorized tools and compile reports for the certification and accreditation. Iím very familiar with their systems, and thatís where most of my work originates."

From his office in Great Bridge, Julius connects to the Internet using the same familiar fiber optic connection that households use. "I have three employees, one a former coworker, who all have extensive experience in performing vulnerability assessments of networks and applications," he points out. "They all possess security clearance and are highly capable of assisting and advising local information security managers on appropriate measures."

IV&V NETSEC LLC is qualified in all elements related to risk mitigation, including systems, networks, hardware, software, facilities and training. "We understand budgets and the need for balance between quality work and cost effectiveness," Julius remarks.

Julius notes the recent attention on the theft of credit card information from the use of merchant key pads. "The hacking of in-store networks is an ongoing problem," he notes. "Any network containing massive amounts of consumer data will be a highly sought-after target. Stealing consumer data causes huge financial damage to companies and erodes consumer confidence. Itís a constant battle to keep these networks safe from data breaches. Anyone who did holiday shopping at certain department stores last year is familiar with the danger of credit card theft, for example. I work hard to prevent those things from happening.

"All retailers that transmit or store cardholder data need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard," he adds. "There are network scanning requirements that are designed to protect the compromising of account data. IV&V NETSEC can assist retailers in their compliance.

"Iím looking to acquire more work in the commercial market," he states. "People want to believe their network is safe. Many times, itís just a matter of pointing out the weaknesses in a companyís network. The best way to convince someone they need our services is to demonstrate how easy it is to acquire passwords or other sensitive information."

For residential computers, Julius recommends good anti-virus software, staying current on all software updates and patches, and using strong passwords. "The value of changing passwords frequently canít be overstated," he emphasizes. "Though hacking of wired and wireless networks occurs, we can be proactive in confronting it."

To help the everyday computer user stay a little safer, Julius recommends five easy steps. "First is to read before you click," he advises. "You donít want to realize something is dangerous only after youíve installed it or browsed the site. Number two is know your anti-virus software. Understand how it works and make sure itís been set correctly. Third, keep in mind the old adage that free is not always free.

"Next is the importance of understanding your web browser, how to see when a website is guarded, and how to know the level of privacy you get from certain pages. Finally, itís important to always close the browser properly when you go offline. Donít wander off with your computer, laptop or mobile device still surfing the web."

When data breaches are a personís livelihood, itís only natural that Julius is the sensible sort. "I donít want to leave a paper trail, so Iím vigilant about shredding my mail," he says. "And I use a cross-cut shredder for maximum protection. Also, if Iím paying a bill, I donít put the flag up on my mailbox. No need to alert anyone that I have sensitive information sitting by the curb. Sometimes, itís the little things that count the most."

Julius and his wife Tamela reside in Chesapeake with their children, Julius Jr., Julian and Jasmine. Julius Jr. is the oldest and following in his fatherís footsteps, studying Information Systems at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"I still have two kids at home, so thereís always something going on," Julius says with a wry smile. "We enjoy watching movies, and Iím in the midst of building an addition that will become our home theater."

Julius envisions IV&V NETSEC LLC growing into a national consulting firm with the ultimate goal of franchising.

"We strive to be the best in everything we do," he states. "My team is available to our customers promptly and appropriately. I understand that change is inevitable, customer confidentiality is essential and that the best compliment is when a customer sees us as part of their team."

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