Let's Explore How to Strengthen Cybersecurity Practices

August 9, 2023
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Interview with Jeff Minakata

With over 23 years of experience in the IT industry, he is a skilled cybersecurity professional with a diverse set of certifications including C|OSINT, CEH v8 - v12, CISP, Metasploit, ACE, and more. As an online instructor, he is passionate about sharing his expertise in OSINT, ethical hacking, and network security. He has contracted courses for reputable organizations like EC-Council and Udemy, and his articles have been featured in leading publications such as Hakin9 and eForensics magazine.

Although our readers are familiar with your articles in eForensics Magazine, could you kindly introduce yourself again? 

Hi, my name is Jeff Minakata. I am an IT professional with about 23 years of experience, an ethical hacker, and OSINT investigator. I also teach network security and OSINT (Open source intelligence) on a couple of online platforms.

Could you please share some information about your work and how you got started? 

My day job is networking with a focus on phishing attacks, viruses, hacking attempts, occasional OSINT investigation, etc. On the side, I like to teach OSINT and network security-related topics to people. I got started taking any job that had anything computer related. I started off working as an electronic sales rep for Office Depot, Gateway Computers as a sales rep, then into the customer service desk, then repairs. I performed side jobs repairing people’s computers and setting up networks at people’s homes, and eventually landed a desktop support job that I worked my way up to networking.

What motivated you to pursue a career in IT? 

I was always interested in how things worked. My parents sat me down in front of a computer at a very early age (Apple II and Vic20). From there I took an immediate interest in what I could do with computers leading to programming, online information gathering, phreaking (for those of you who are old enough to remember that term), etc. I held onto that interest as technology continued to advance along with my interest and skills and transitioned into a career in IT.

Can you provide us with your perspective on the current state of the IT industry? 

I think that the IT industry as a whole has grown quite a bit in terms of the sharing of information, the complex tools at people’s disposal, and how easy it is for just about anyone to obtain good training (eForensics magazine, online courses, forums, YouTube, etc.). I grew up in the 70s and 80s and coming across information in terms of hacking, OSINT, etc., was very difficult starting off. I still think that while the tools and the information is out there, the industry still needs more people to invest more time training in information security, given the rising number of threats out there.

Have you witnessed the detrimental impact of hacking on individuals during your career? 

Yes, I have seen people fall victim to ransomware attacks, extortion threats, phishing attacks, trojans, networks fall victim to the “I love you” virus (my first day on the job as a regular full-time IT), people almost losing significant amounts of money to vishing attacks, etc.

During your career, have you seen how hacking has positively affected individuals? 

Yes, by learning ethical hacking, social engineering, how viruses work, and so forth, helping protect users and networks has become a much easier task. Understanding how these attack vectors work, malicious hacker’s methodologies, running phishing campaigns, and setting up training can drastically raise people’s awareness and lower the number of successful attacks.

Based on my understanding, you are an online instructor who specializes in OSINT, ethical hacking, and network security. Would you mind sharing more information about this part of your work? 

Sure, expanding my knowledge in these areas (especially OSINT), I didn’t find a lot of places to really learn the subject matter aside from one or two seemingly random tips here and there. Once I started taking a deep dive in and I felt more confident in the subject matter, I decided to try to create a series of courses to help people learn OSINT, ethical hacking, and network security. At the time that I posted my first OSINT course on Udemy (there were none at the time), someone must have had the same idea as their course ended up posting a couple of days before mine, so I ended up the second one on there! Now when I do a search, I can find over 393 OSINT courses posted on that site alone, so it’s great to see the subject matter becoming so popular, and I am very humbled that one of my courses has stayed one of the bestsellers since it was posted. It feels really great to be able to help people learn the topic and to answer various questions that they have in their investigations, especially from different people around the world in various job roles, it’s really exciting and fun.

Which area of IT security do you find most interesting and why? 

It’s really a toss-up between OSINT and ethical hacking (though some of my co-workers may say that’s because I use it to prank them sometimes). The OSINT side is really exciting to me in terms of investigations. I used to think that it would be really cool to be a detective like Sherlock Holmes growing up, and OSINT allows me to run different types of investigations (unmasking hackers and scammers, helping find information on missing people, and so forth). Ethical hacking is exciting, trying to find different exploits and attack vectors before the “bad guys” can leverage it.

You wrote a lot of articles for eForensics Magazine; could you please tell us which ones were the easiest and which ones caused you problems? 

I would say the easiest one to write would be April 22 “Forensic Investigations Case Studies and Tools, Who or what is OSCAR the Modular body?” I had recently debunked this story with a friend of mine and the timing was great since I was already able to do the research. The one that caused me the most problem would most likely be Jan. 20 “Deep Dive into Data Hiding. Audio Steganography with DeepSound”. That was the first article that I wrote for eForensics and it was a really intimidating venture to take since I have never written for a magazine before. Fortunately for me, eForensics had some great people to work with and were very friendly. In the end, that made it an amazing experience.

Do you have any final thoughts or advice to share with our readers? 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or look for answers. A common DM that I get from students is they were afraid to ask a question because they thought it was “stupid”. I can understand that sentiment - growing up when I did, the hacking and Linux community could be extremely harsh to new people. Times have changed and not only is there a ton of information out there now, but also people in general are much friendlier and more willing to share information. Ask questions, search for answers, and build up your resources and connections to help you build up your knowledge.

Thank you for dedicating your time, and effort, and providing assistance. 

As always, thank you so much for making this an amazing experience.

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Jeff
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