Stronger Together:

Meet Seth Hopwood, DFIR IT Director

Tetra Defense values a well-rounded approach when it comes to cybersecurity. Preparing for cyberattacks, strengthening defenses, and responding to incidents are all important separately, but they are far more effective when combined. To that effect, we learn from Seth Hopwood, Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) IT Director, as he brings his humanities and hardware experience to Tetra Defense.

 

“If you become skilled within one area of IT, and if it’s something you’re interested in to begin with, then you can branch out and see how this piece fits within a larger context more easily.”


How did your career begin?

I was originally studying History with the intent on teaching the subject at the college level. One semester during my studies, I noticed the opportunity to take a PC hardware course that worked well within my scholarship situation at the time. I love history, but I had always liked concrete, technical topics as well. Even in high school, I spent three and a half years in auto shop classes, so this PC hardware course in college seemed like a good call-back to those days. 

What first piqued your interest in cybersecurity?

The course was structured as a way to earn the CompTIA A+ certificate, which would qualify students to earn entry-level IT or Managed Service Provider (MSP) positions. It covered networking, hardware, Windows, and a general overview of other concepts within IT. This certainly was a very different subject matter than most of my classes at the time, but in comparing history to IT, I found some overlap in critical thinking skills.

It was during this PC hardware course in college that I saw a presentation from Brian Gill, the CEO of Gillware, speaking on the subject of hard drive failure. I was really intrigued with this subject, and through his presentation and my questions, we were able to connect and stayed in touch through the remainder of my schooling. After I had earned my Associate’s degree, I applied to work at Gillware where I connected with both Wesley Gill and Scott Holewinski.

What brought you to Tetra Defense?

 Tetra Defense actually started out beneath the umbrella of Gillware Data Recovery, our sister company, so I had a front row seat to this transition alongside Cindy Murphy, Nathan Little, and Cody Dorn. Over time, Tetra began to specialize in responding to cyberattacks through DFIR work, I was able to hone my skills and continue working with backups and disaster recovery. Within DFIR, I am now one of our Directors of IT, which includes scoping calls of new cases, overseeing a case from start to finish, and handling any IT needs of our clients alongside my teammates.

How does your team interact in relation to others?

 When Tetra first started, we knew that our Incident Response team would need a Software Engineering team to support it. A lot of our first employees actually dabbled in both — some of our DFIR teammates have computer science backgrounds, and our developers know how important it is to create the tools that help business get back up on their feet after a cyber incident.

Thankfully, as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to clarify the line between development and IR, but there’s still so much value in how closely these two teams work together. We can offer real-world threat intel and data that educates what needs to be created within our own organizational systems. We can better utilize our teammates and our time. We can solve the latest problems by developing our own solutions on a case-by-case basis. Seeing these two teams come together daily has been one of the best parts of working at Tetra.

Any advice for aspiring cybersecurity professionals?

I would say to start with a piece of IT that interests you. This could be networking or domain administration, or any other concept within IT. If you become skilled within one area, and if it’s something you’re interested in to begin with, then you can branch out and see how this piece fits within a larger context more easily. For example, if you are interested in domain administration and you want to understand how to run an office, how to make sure everyone’s computers are hooked into the domain, or how everyone’s email accounts are set up, it’s nearly impossible to learn that without inadvertently learning about networking. Many concepts within IT and cybersecurity are connected in this way, and it can be overwhelming to try to understand 500 topics at once. Starting with something that may genuinely interest or come naturally to you will be the best gateway into understanding the larger picture as a whole.

When I started, I understood hardware and backup-related concepts, and in understanding how to set up robust backups, I naturally learned more about how entire cybersecurity environments function. As I continue to learn on the job, I stand by the strategy of learning one concept deeply and letting other pieces fill in around it naturally.

A non-work related question: How do you like to spend your free time?

I play a lot of physical board games as a hobby — I have an entire wall’s worth of board games at the moment. This is intentional because I try to not look at a screen when I’m not at work. When I was younger, I was more interested in multi-player video games, but I don’t play them as much these days. Hobbies that stay away from the screen in general are great for me, and whenever the weather allows it here in Madison, Wisconsin, I spend as much as time as I can outside.

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