Leading the Way in Information Security and Internal Audit
“To succeed professionally requires foresight, regardless of your pursuits,” says John Moynihan ’83 (economics), Deputy Commissioner of the Inspectional Services Division (ISD) and Internal Control Officer with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). He oversees DOR’s Office of Internal Affairs, the Office of Internal Audit, and the Information Security Unit. “Being responsible for organizational governance within an agency that collects and distributes more than $19 billion annually, I have had to define emerging threats to the organization and implement measures to mitigate these threats. I try to be forward thinking and maintain a proactive approach. This type of thought process is developed over time and isn’t taught as part of a formal curriculum.”
Moynihan is quick to point out that because the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences promotes innovative thought and flexibility and offers a diverse curriculum, SBS students are ideally suited for careers like his in the information security area. “I believe that Information Security and Internal Audit are among the fastest growing career paths and will offer extensive opportunities for the foreseeable future,” Moynihan says. “These interesting and rewarding disciplines do not require wide-ranging technical backgrounds. However, for individuals to be successful in the field they must be creative and receptive to unique situations.”
Internal data breaches are currently among the most serious risks to organizations that collect and maintain personal information. At DOR, Moynihan and his team have developed a multifaceted information security strategy, first implemented in 1997, that is recognized as a model by various publications and industry groups. “Given the emerging and increasingly sophisticated threats faced by organizations that maintain confidential data,” Moynihan says, “we continually enhance the systems, strategies and techniques used to safeguard personal data and have remained at the forefront of this discipline. My staff and I, on an ongoing basis, consult with other Massachusetts state agencies on information security methods, assist them in establishing policy, and conduct specialized confidentiality training for their employees.”
A published author and widely recognized speaker, Moynihan has developed an extensive network through leading industry groups, regulatory agencies, and law enforcement. His article “Confronting the Emerging Threat,” was published in the October 2007 issue of Internal Auditor magazine, the world’s leading internal audit publication. “Managing the Insider Threat” is scheduled for publication this January in Information Systems Control Journal. This past year Moynihan presented at major security conferences in Palm Beach and Dallas—but he’s never too busy to focus on his very active college internship program.
For those who are just getting started with their careers, Moynihan’s advice is to be active and to reach out to experienced people who are willing to spend time with them. “Virtually every successful person has had a mentor who took an interest during the formative stages of their professional development. Students should search out these mentors, while they are still students through internships and as their careers evolve.”
Moynihan speaks from personal experience. “After graduation I was looking for a job in a very poor market. I learned of opportunities at DOR within the tax enforcement function, and knew that it was a place with many other opportunities. I took the job and got to know Tom Herman, who at the time was the First Deputy Commissioner. He took a personal interest, and stressed the need to develop specialized knowledge. Over the years I have participated in training that has allowed me to stay on top of current trends, techniques and strategies. It’s been a real advantage. Career advancement is driven by many factors, one of which is to distinguish yourself as having current knowledge in your field. Formal learning doesn’t end with receiving your degree!
“Upon entering the workforce, you should evaluate the major functions performed by your employer and determine the direction of the organization. You should consciously develop skills that are consistent with its mission and futures. New employees often possess fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that are valued by employers. I’m not suggesting that it is possible to foretell a specific event, but it is possible to identify trends, opportunities and the overall direction of an employer.”
Looking back on his UMass Amherst experience after 25 years, Moynihan says he remembers being immediately impressed with its academic, athletic and social depth—“a constructive balance. As a freshman, I was a varsity basketball walk-on and spent the first year juggling academic and athletic demands. I didn’t return to the team sophomore year, choosing instead to focus on academics and working at Joey D’s restaurant and night club. My most valued memories, though, are of the people. Today my wife Judy and I will visit during the basketball season, taking in a game and spending the weekend.”
November 13, 2007