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Navigating the world of cybersecurity with Jefferson Perez

Jefferson Perez, information security analyst

Going down research rabbit holes to determine any cyber risks that exist at the university is all in a day’s work for Jefferson Perez, an information security analyst in the Office of Information Technology’s Information Security Office. Jeff shares what it’s like working in the field, provides cybersecurity tips for the Rutgers community, and discusses the importance of mental wellness.

What is most interesting to you about working in information security?
The risk element of the field is the coolest part of my job. The process of finding and assessing different risks is very interesting, as I often go down rabbit holes to research and fully understand scenarios in which threats at the university level could occur. I’m especially driven by reading about cybersecurity and learning new information every day.

How would you describe your role at Rutgers to someone who isn’t in the field?
It’s all about trying to prepare for anything that can happen security-wise, which means working with data, vendors, or computer software. A lot of what we do on a daily basis is poke holes in the security posture of a particular vendor or asset and create reports to simplify our findings. In other words, we’re constantly assessing our readiness to deal with security risks, and searching for any weaknesses.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month: What is one of the biggest cyber threats out there today?
I think the first thing that comes to mind are the recent cyberattacks involving ransomware at casinos in Las Vegas. Not only did hackers gain access to customer data, but the attacks also may have affected devices on casino properties. This type of cyberattack signals the danger that hackers pose, especially on our everyday devices connected to the internet.

What are some simple things the Rutgers community can do to mitigate the dangers of cybersecurity and information security threats?
Make sure your devices and software are always kept up to date. This will really help minimize your “attack surface” and reduce the chance of cyber threats. Start with the software on your phone and look at each individual app as an entry point.

Another piece of advice is to always read the fine print of what’s being done with your online data. Check out the terms on your social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, or shopping services like Amazon. Today, everything is about data, so it’s critical to keep track of your digital footprint to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work that you’re passionate about?
A lot of my interests outside of work right now are based on my mental wellness. I believe it’s important to keep yourself mentally sharp and reduce anxiety, so a lot of my hobbies revolve around just staying active, whether it’s walking in the morning, running, working out, or playing sports.

Is there a connection between mental wellness and working in information security?
There definitely is for me. Focusing on my mental wellness has allowed me to open my mind and expand my points of view when working in the information security field. For instance, if I’m working on a project and I’m feeling kind of stuck, going for a walk or a workout allows me to come back and see a different perspective.

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