Connor Ivens clearly has a competitive nature. By day, he’s helping Tanium gain a competitive edge over the competition. By night, he’s training for hacking competitions with a group of friends from college. Connor is currently gearing up to compete in the annual DEF CON car hacking competition in August.
We sat down with Connor to hear more about his new position as competitive intelligence manager at Tanium and his game plan for the upcoming car hacking competition. Here’s where our conversation picks up.
Tell us about your background:
Connor Ivens: I was born and raised in West Michigan, where I attended Ferris State University, studying Information Security and Intelligence, one of the only National Security Agency (NSA)certified schools for cybersecurity at the time. I started my career about eight years ago in cybersecurity with Spectrum Health, where I was a security engineer/incident responder. During this time, I would investigate alerts and hunt for unknown threats because it was a small IR organization. It’s also where I got my first introduction to the Tanium platform. My first impression was, “holy cow — you can do all that with the platform?”
After Spectrum Health, I worked at U.S. Bank for about five years as a senior security engineer. This past winter, I continued to keep a close eye on openings at Tanium, and as luck would have it, an opening finally came up. Fast forward to today — I am now a Competitive Intelligence Manager at Tanium.
What activities do you do outside work?
Connor Ivens: I compete in the annual GrrCON cybersecurity and hacking conference in Grand Rapids with a group of friends from Ferris State. They work in penetration testing and being tied with them I’ve developed a knack for it. We’ve competed in four hacking competitions, and we’ve won first place every year. We have also traveled to DerbyCon in Louisville, Kentucky, where we competed and took home first prize too.
Any competitions coming up? How do you prepare for these challenges?
Connor Ivens: This August I’m competing in the DEF CON car hacking event. My team has been there before, but this will be my first. DEF CON is a huge event and you’re competing against the best of the best, but we’re just excited to be there to compete.
My teammates do a ton of different challenges and practicals for car hacking. For me, I’ve carved out a niche for a specific challenge and practice that skill. For example, CAN systems or radio frequency identification (RFID) challenges with radio frequencies. During those challenges, I would prepare by looking at capture the flag (CTF) security cases the year before and target what they ask for. I’ll also look into some Discord groups and communities to get a better understanding of the new trends in the field, in hopes of them becoming potential challenges in the competition. In some cases, you can prepare for the wrong thing, but it’s all in the spirit of fun and learning. I don’t regret it at all because I’m always up for a new challenge.
What’s it like working in your department at Tanium?
Connor Ivens: So far, it’s been incredible. I feel like every day is a Friday here because it’s so enjoyable. This was a big career change for me. I’ve gone from doing mainly engineering work to more research and content development. I also get to work with some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. It’s exciting to log on every day because it’s like, “who do I get to talk to today” or “what am I going to learn?” It’s fascinating to see all the different backgrounds of people and how we’re coming together to bring new ideas to the industry.
Is there something about Tanium’s culture that sticks out to you?
Connor Ivens: The one team, one fight mentality. As a team-oriented individual, I really resonated with that value. Even back in the days when I was a Tanium customer, I saw how Tanium employees were always ready and willing to help. They are the first ones in and last ones out, even if it’s not a Tanium problem. The value of integrity and doing the right thing also resonated with me and is demonstrated by how the employees work every day. I already knew the platform was first class and the culture is equally impressive.
Is there anything in particular that you appreciate about working at Tanium?
Connor Ivens: For years, I’ve been a big fan of the product and all the innovations that have come out of Tanium. Now, I get to be part of the team that helps organizations manage and protect their mission-critical networks. I believe there is potential of saving people’s lives in security. While, it sounds like a hyperbole, thinking about unpatched MRI machines that are open to the internet, or critical infrastructure that can be taken offline from a scan. The ‘life saving’ value of security is something not seen; it is much better to prevent an issue, than to rescue someone from one. The technology that Tanium provides can help at that preventative stage—in any industry.