In the SecureWorld Spotlight Series, we learn about the speakers and Advisory Council members that make our events a success. In Q&A format, they share about their professional journeys, unique experiences, and hopes for the future of cybersecurity—along with some personal anecdotes.
Teresa Merklin is a Cyber Fellow at Lockheed Martin, where she works in an Aviation Cyber Test Range that evaluates military systems. She specializes in cyber risk assessment for that unique environment with an eye toward improving the development and deployment of cyber resilient systems.
She is a nationally-ranked senior tennis player and writes a daily blog on the sport, fiendatcourt.com.
Get to know Teresa Merklin
Q: Why did you decide to pursue cybersecurity as a career path?
A: It might be more accurate to say that cybersecurity found me. I started out in embedded software development and was originally hired by Lockheed Martin as a part of the F-35 Software Management Team. However, I naturally gravitated toward the cybersecurity tasks required in that position to the point that the company eventually shifted me over to do cybersecurity full-time. I sometimes credit reading Cliff Stoll’s "The Cuckoo's Egg" with creating my fascination with information system protection that underpinned that part of my career arc.
Q: What encouraged you to join your current organization (employer)?
A: Who wouldn't want to work in an aviation cyber test range? I can't believe they pay me to do this work.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about your organization?
A: Lockheed Martin is on the vanguard of cybersecurity thought leadership for DoD systems. It is a place to work with cutting edge technology on systems that keep the world safer.
Q: How would you describe your feelings about cybersecurity in one word?
A: Foundational. (This is something that has to be inherent into everything we do, not something that is slapped on later.)
Q: What has been your most memorable moment thus far working in cybersecurity?
A: Not necessarily cyber-related, but I got to stand in for a female pilot during testing for an ejection seat harness for the F-35.
Q: If you had to choose, what's the one cybersecurity practice people can adopt that would have the greatest impact?
A: Investing in cyber resiliency requirements analysis during project inception and requirements.
Q: What is an industrywide change you would like to see happen in the future?
A: Getting cybersecurity out of the specialist silo and integrating domain knowledge as a foundational core of working on all forms of cyber-enabled systems.
Q: If you could pass or change one regulation/law in cybersecurity and data protection, what would it be and why?
A: Universal protection for responsible security research and disclosure. There are way too many examples of companies responding to direct notification of vulnerabilities in their products with cease and desist legal notifications. There has to be an ethical way to research and disclose; otherwise, only unethical people will engage in that part of the cybersecurity ecosystem.
Q: What is your stance on generative AI (like ChatGPT and Google Bard)? Is it a necessary evil? How can it be used for good?
A: So much hype. So little practical use cases.
Q: When you tell people what you do for a living, what do you say?
A: That I break into military weapons systems. Though, the reality is that mostly I write about the exploits of others on my team.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at your regional SecureWorld 2023 conference?
A: This is one of the only times each year that I engage with the local community in my area.
Q: In honor of our 2023 conference theme, CyberSonic: Security & Sound Remix, what is your all-time favorite song?
A: "One Thing Leads to Another" by The Fixx. This is one of my favorite songs from my high school days. When you break down the lyrics, it is also a prophetic treatise on cybersecurity.
To connect with Teresa Merklin and cybersecurity leaders from the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, attend the 19th annual SecureWorld Dallas conference on October 26, 2023. Teresa will be presenting "My System Can Kick Your System's @ss: Practical Lessons from the Military Weapons Systems Cybersecurity Trenches."
Continue to follow our Spotlight Series for more highlights from industry experts.