Duane Thresher, Ph.D.
B.S. from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
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
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
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
and search for "Thresher".
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
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
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
available on the NASA GISS website.
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
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.
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
certifications and grades.
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
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
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
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.).