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Duane Thresher, Ph.D.

B.S. from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

B.S. from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Since Information Technology (IT) is really communication-of-information technology, IT is mostly computer networking. (Cyber is a prefix meaning IT, so for example, IT security is also known as cybersecurity.) Computer includes supercomputers, desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. There has been a "convergence" and all of these devices now communicate -- their most important function -- over the same networks, particularly the Internet. Thus, being an IT expert means being a networking expert.

Networking, at its first, lowest, physical layer (hardware; e.g., cables, wireless), is mostly electrical engineering. At its last, highest, application layer (software; e.g., the World Wide Web), it is mostly computer science. However, at either end, extensive knowledge of the other end is necessary.

Uniquely, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has one department for both electrical engineering and computer science. Students in the department (EECS) ultimately specialize in one or the other but still take the core courses for both ("from atoms to algorithms"). It is essentially a double major.

According to US News & World Report's Best Global Universities rankings, MIT is #1 in computer science and #2 in engineering (all kinds, so MIT may actually be #1 in electrical engineering too) in the world.

Given the difficulty of many theses in the department, my own included, a BS from MIT in EECS may be equivalent to an MS at other universities. My thesis was designing and building a fiber-optic high-speed serial link -- like those used in networks -- for a NASA-funded digital astronomical camera because nothing like it was available commercially at the time; see this NASA document and search for "Thresher".

M.S. from UA and NCAR

M.S. from UA and NCAR in Supercomputing

I studied and worked on climate modeling on supercomputers at the University of Arizona (UA) using National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) supercomputers, some of the fastest in the world.

Climate models are some of the most sophisticated programs (software) ever written, and climate modeling requires a lot of sophisticated programming (i.e., computer science; see B.S. entry). For example, I programmed part of NCAR's climate model; see this NCAR code and search for "Thresher" twice.

Supercomputers are mostly computers made with up to thousands of "parallel" processors networked together. Programming these networked parallel supercomputers requires knowledge of this underlying hardware (i.e., electrical engineering; see B.S. entry).

Ph.D. from Columbia and NASA GISS

Ph.D. from Columbia and NASA GISS in Supercomputing

I continued to study and work on climate modeling on supercomputers at Columbia University and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) using NASA supercomputers, also some of the fastest in the world.

Again (see M.S. entry), this work required a lot of sophisticated programming (i.e., computer science; see B.S. entry) with knowledge of the underlying hardware (i.e., electrical engineering; see B.S. entry). For advanced study in this I attended NASA's High Performance Computing School at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD, as well as building my own "supercomputer" (same networked parallel processors but fewer and slower).

Some of this modeling supercomputer work is described in my dissertation available on the NASA GISS website.

CCNA Courses from Cisco and UAF CTC

Four CCNA Courses from Cisco and UAF CTC

Cisco is the leading networking company, concentrating in the more physical/hardware end (routers, switches, etc.) of networking; i.e., more electrical engineering than computer science (see B.S. entry).

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is often a requirement for IT jobs. It is obtained by taking a pass-fail test given by Cisco, who makes money from it. The cutoff is thus set to make sure enough pass so that more will pay to take it. No courses are required to take the test, but those who do take courses will have a better understanding of the subject, and how they do in the courses will be a better measure of how well they understand the subject, i.e., how qualified they are.

I took four 4-credit CCNA courses (one academic year) from Cisco and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Community & Technical College (CTC). I took the harder version of these courses, Exploration, not the easier version, Discovery. I did extremely and exceptionally well, having received an A+ in all four courses; see this page for course descriptions and all my grades in them.

While this clearly shows my understanding of the subject as Cisco teaches it is exceptional, I would argue that even Cisco CCNA courses, usually given as the core courses in community colleges, are not enough to consider any one who takes them qualified for an IT job, never mind just passing the CCNA certification pass-fail test; see Stop IT Incompetence page. This is particularly true regarding IT security, i.e., protecting from hacking, which is mostly computer science (see Security entry below). A BS from a good university in electrical engineering and computer science should be the minimum requirement for an IT job.

FOT Courses

Fiber Optic Technician (FOT) Courses

Fiber optics are the fastest and most-secure networking media (cables, so hardware, so an electrical engineering topic). Knowledge of fiber optics is thus necessary for networking and IT work (see B.S. entry).

I took a combined course to receive Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT) and Advanced Fiber Optic Technician (AFOT) certifications. I then took a course to receive Outside Plant Fiber Optic Technician (CFospT) certification. In both courses I did exceptionally well; see this page for the certifications and grades.

Network Engineer at ARSC and UAF

Network Engineer at ARSC and UAF

A network engineer works most at the more physical/hardware end of networking; i.e., more electrical engineering than computer science (see B.S. entry).

I was a network engineer at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). ARSC had some of the fastest supercomputers in the world and was a Department of Defense facility, which thus emphasized security, including requiring security training.

Additionally, I researched and did some cellphone work, both to fix dead spots within buildings and, for security reasons, to block cellphones entirely.

Security expertise from hacking and Thresher Networks

Security Expertise from Hacking and Thresher Networks

In addition to the considerable network, thus IT (see B.S. entry), security education and experience I received above, I gained even more from two importantly-different perspectives -- as victim and as hacker -- while CEO of my first IT company, Thresher Networks LLC (Montana).

My family and I were victims of not one, but two(!), major health insurer data breaches: Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MT DPHHS) and Premera Blue Cross.

When Obamacare, itself an IT security fiasco, was implemented, MT DPHHS provided the health insurance for children, including mine. In one of the largest data breaches at the time, MT DPHHS lost all their information -- names, ages, addresses, medical records, etc. -- to hackers. They pretended the only concern was identity theft -- so they only had to offer free credit monitoring for a year -- but with children the concern is abduction. After demanding state and federal officials (including FBI's Comey) investigate and getting no response, I investigated, including a source inside the MT DPHHS. What I found was that incompetent IT people, particularly the Chief Information Officer (CIO), who didn't even know enough to take basic precautions, were responsible. Premera, our health insurer when we were in Alaska, was the same (old) story. See Stop IT Incompetence page.

From my previous IT security education and experience and from being a hacking victim, I realized the only way to protect from hacking is to learn how to hack. Hacking is a networking, thus IT, activity and can range from the more physical/hardware end to the more application/software end (see B.S. entry). Thresher Networks LLC designed and installed -- including cables and other hardware (e.g., routers, switches) -- secure enterprise networks, so I already had expertise at that end. Hacking at the application/software end is more common, well-known and computer science. Good university hacking courses are rare, since it is about doing what is commonly considered an illegal activity, so I learned hacking the way most hackers do: on my own but made much easier by my IT education and experience. Thresher Networks LLC then offered it as the legal service called "penetration testing".

From being a hacking victim so many times (not just health insurers) and from my investigations into those incidents, it became all too clear to me that IT incompetence was widespread and having disastrous consequences. And it was getting worse, although it should have been expected to get better if IT people were qualified so could learn from breaches. The massive 2017 Equifax breach is the worst in a long line of worsening data breaches. With my extensive IT education and experience, including hacking, I realized I could better serve as an IT consultant to those who needed it most and needed the best, so I started Apscitu Inc. (serving the entire United States, but particularly Washington D.C.).