Welcome! I’m an information security practitioner and researcher originally from Mayfield, Kentucky, a little community right down the road from towns called Possum Trot and Monkey’s Eyebrow (seriously). I currently reside in Gainesville, Georgia and am the founder of Applied Network Defense and the Rural Technology Fund. My research is focused on the intersection of digital forensics, cognitive psychology, and education.

This site serves as a repository for all of my research, training, and publications. The goal of that content is to help others further their careers and better secure the data and computer networks they are responsible for protecting.

My Career

If you’ve made it to my blog then chances are you’ve done so because you’ve read something I’ve written. I’ve written six books including three editions of “Practical Packet Analysis”, which has sold tens of thousands of copies internationally, “Intrusion Detection Honeypots”, and “Applied Network Security Monitoring”. Along with this I’ve written and co-written hundreds of articles on the topics of packet analysis, intrusion detection, and general network security and administration. I’ve also done some public speaking on those¬†topics.

My professional career began in systems administration when I was hired as the first network administrator for the school district I graduated from. I had always been interested in the security aspect of computing and would eventually shift my focus there. I worked in multiple roles for the US Department of Defense where I served as a security analyst, eventually building and leading teams of analysts. Eventually, I left the defense sector and began working in private industry with great people at InGuardians and Mandiant/FireEye. In late 2016 I decided it was time to focus on serving others through my training and non-profit work. It was then I founded Applied Network Defense where I focus on delivering high-quality, affordable security training. I’m fortunate to have worked with some of the best and brightest in the business.

While my previous research has been focused on technical aspects of security, in late 2013 I began to turn my focus to cognitive psychology, education, and how those things apply to the challenges faced by security practitioners and the people teaching them. My hope is that I can use this research to positively impact how security analysts are trained, how security tools are developed, and how investigations are conducted. In 2021, I defended my doctoral dissertation “The Analyst Mindset: A Cognitive Skills Assessment of Digital Forensic Practitioners” at Baylor University. I continue to perform research in this area.

My Background

There weren’t a lot of opportunities related to technology when I was coming of age in west Kentucky. I’m the proud son of a sewing machine operator and a trucker and I came from a family where very few graduated high school, and college was unheard of. We were dirt poor, but I was fortunate enough to have a few teachers who were positive influences and wanted me to be successful. Because of that, I’m passionate about education and public schools.

Because I come from a background of limited means, I try to do what I can to humbly inspire others who might find themselves in a similar situation. This is why I write about my experiences and share my story with those who will listen.

I knew from an early age that if I was able to achieve some level of success I wanted to give back to my community and those like it. In 2008 I founded the Rural Technology Fund. The RTF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designed to provide scholarship and learning opportunities to students from rural areas pursuing careers in computer technology.

We promote technology advocacy in rural areas through various support programs and have donated thousands in scholarships and equipment across the United States. Our primary focus is partnering with passionate teachers to help them enable STEM education in the classroom. As of 2021, we’ve helped introduce over 100,000 kids across all 50 states to computer science and engineering.

Personally, I enjoy watching Kentucky basketball, woodworking, cooking, and perfecting my craft as a BBQ pitmaster. I also love to read and enjoy learning about the history of the southern United States.