Profiles in Cybersecurity: Sam Willis

Sam Willis

To celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is profiling those in the Trojan community who are involved in cybersecurity. Sam Willis is a graduate student in computer science, graduate research assistant who works in the Cyber Gym, and Bryant native.

Please tell us about yourself.

I am originally from Chicago, Illinois, but have lived in Arkansas since I was 8. I’ve always been interested in technology, particularly computers, so I quickly became my family’s “tech support.” That, combined with my fascination with anything resembling a puzzle, ultimately led me to computer science. I received my B.S. in computer science from UA Little Rock in December 2019, and have been in graduate school ever since. Between my roommate and I, we have two dogs, a cat, and a ball python. When I’m not working on schoolwork or the Cyber Gym, I’m usually either playing video games or reading. 

What do you plan to do after you graduate? 

I do not have any specific plans as of right now, but I would like to continue work in either cybersecurity or artificial intelligence.

What is your experience with the cybersecurity field?

Working on the Cyber Gym here at UA Little Rock was really my first step into the cybersecurity field, at least in a professional sense. Before, I had only taken a single course in cybersecurity, with a bit of independent research on the side. However, I have learned a lot in my time here and look forward to learning even more! 

What made you want to get involved with cybersecurity?

My interest in cybersecurity started after hearing about some of the big data breaches in the news when I was younger. Those showed me just how powerful information can be, and how important it is to make sure it is protected. This interest has only grown as I have continued to learn more about the field.

How important do you think cybersecurity is and why? Why is now a good time to work in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is absolutely essential, now more than ever. As our lives become increasingly digital, the value of data also increases. Naturally, there are many who will try to steal this information by any means. While this is unfortunate, it does create an ever-expanding market for cybersecurity professionals who can help prevent these attacks. As attacks get more and more complex, our defenses must evolve as well. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What are a few pieces of advice the average person can do to protect themselves from cyber attacks?

Carefully examine any unfamiliar links before you click them. Many attacks involve sending victims to websites that mimic other popular websites in an attempt to steal their information. For example, a link to “faceboook.com” may take you to a login page resembling that of Facebook, but it has nothing to do with the actual Facebook site. 

Make sure you trust the source of a file before you download anything. You never truly know a file’s contents before it is on your computer, and by then it may be too late. 

Try to avoid using the same password for multiple websites; if one service suffers a data breach, your information across all of those platforms will be vulnerable. Most modern web browsers have built-in password management that generate random passwords and input them automatically.

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