Nardin Girls Hear From Theresa Payton

S. Crawford '20

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Last week, Theresa Payton, cyber security expert and former White House CIO, was at UB for the UB Distinguished Speaker Series. Fifteen Nardin Academy students, as well as Mrs. Healy, were in the audience to experience Payton’s speech.

Payton, who was the first female CIO of cyber security at the White House, now has her own company for private cyber security.

Before undertaking these feats, however, Payton attended Immaculata University for undergraduate school. She went into college thinking “I have to be employable when I get out of here.” With that goal in mind, Payton completed a double major in business and economics with a certification in computers.

After graduating from Immaculata with her undergraduate degree, Payton received a call from the University of Virginia. They wanted her to go to graduate school at their university in an attempt to get more women into their technology programs. Payton finished her graduate degree at the University of Virginia in just three semesters and went on to work at a Bank of America in Florida.

When asked why she decided to dedicate her life to technology Payton said, “This career chose me.”  she continued by saying, “I was always having to think about ‘how do I create technology our customers want to use, while at the same time not letting the bad guys get between us and the bank?’”

Payton is clearly very passionate about her work, and passion is incredibly important when choosing a career path. “Life is too short to go to a job you don’t like,” Payton said. She went on to say that teenagers must ask themselves “what drives me? Who is it I want to help? What do I like to do?” These are the most important questions to consider for teenagers deciding on colleges and majors. Payton also said it is important to move around and try different things. Nothing is set in stone so early in your career.

For example, Payton never expected to work in the White House when she first graduated from Immaculata, but she tried new things and the White House came calling once she did.

It was during her time working in Florida that Payton was called by the White House to serve as CIO under George W. Bush.

Upon arrival at the White House, many people told Payton “you’re not what we expected.” She soon realized her co-workers expected a male to fill the position of CIO. For this reason, Payton said she felt a responsibility to be a good female role model and do everything possible to be successful.

Payton identified a branding problem as the main reason the cybersecurity field is lacking female employees. “People think cyber security is lonely,” Payton said, “we don’t show how what we are doing is making a difference in people’s lives.”

Payton said that both men and women need to be a part of the cyber security community because both groups bring different problem solving techniques to the table.

As a strong female role model in cyber security, Payton has written two books about her field, Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family and Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?

In these books, Payton talks about the importance of segmenting life online, as well as being sceptical of online activity.

While at UB, Payton talked about segmenting interactions online based on social media and personal identity. She said using one username and password for social media, but a different username and password for a bank account or insurance account is important.

This may not seem important to teenagers at the moment, but as college approaches and teens get jobs, seeing banking information online is becoming more and more common. Starting to protect yourself early, even in the simplest ways, can make a big difference when dealing with online criminals.

Payton also mentioned being very cautious and skeptical online. “Have a healthy dose of scepticism when someone reaches out to you,” she said.

This can be especially challenging for teenagers using social media because 93% of teens said they go online to engage with people. However, everyone, including teens, needs to be cautious about opening links sent online and about people contacting others through online sources.

Everyone is in charge of their own online presence and safety. “For us as individuals, we have to care about ourselves, no one is looking out for you,” Payton said, “make a best faith effort to protect yourself.”

As for teenagers, Payton said teens have a really good handle on protecting their privacy, however they still have to be careful about posting online. Every individual must make decisions about what parts of their lives they want to share with the public and what parts of their lives they only want to share with a close group of friends and family. Once something is posted online, it’s nearly impossible to get it taken down, so being thoughtful about what is being posted online is vital. “The internet never forgets,” Payton said, “I always say, if you wouldn’t do it with your grandmother and mother looking over your shoulder, you probably shouldn’t post it online.”

Lastly, Payton had a few quick tips for protecting personal identity online.

To start, individuals should strongly consider covering their laptop’s webcam so no one can spy through a laptop.

Also, when updating a cell phone, wait one week after the release of a full operating system because there are usually some bugs that need to be fixed directly following an operating system’s release. If there is only a small update to an operating system, however, update your cell phone immediately.

Another great online safety tip Payton encourages is enabling two step identification on cell phones and other devices.

Additionally, Payton said it is important to never sign into public or free wifi. A hacker could easily take control of any device signed into a public wifi network.

Payton’s speech at UB last week taught audience members all about online safety. Hopefully her tips will be taken to heart so Buffalonians, and Nardin students, can better protect themselves against cyber criminals looking to make money off of innocent people with an online presence.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the Writer
Nardin Girls Hear From Theresa Payton