Meet John: Gap Inc.’s Behind the Scenes Cyber Defense Firefighter

For most of us everyday consumers, we don’t think much about what happens behind the scenes when we shop online. We may struggle with picking the right size or color, but, we probably rarely think about the purchase again until it arrives at our doorstep.

But for John Gearhart, Director of Cyber Defense here at Gap Inc., every online purchase is a possibility for a crisis. With over 16 years of information security experience in finance and biotech, John brings a wealth of cyber defense knowledge to his current role. He leads the Cyber Defense Center to defend Gap Inc. against the ever-present threats of information security data breaches and hacks. He shared with us a little more about how his team operates.

How does Gap Inc. address cyber defense?
Our cyber defense here at Gap Inc. is the war room tasked with detecting and responding to events in real-time across all of our brands. Like digital paratroopers who fly in during times of crisis, cyber defense teams must be calm, cool and completely collected while fighting digital-based attacks.

How does the cyber defense team work at Gap Inc.?
The Cyber Defense Center is divided into two distinct teams; the Monitoring and Incident Response team and Attack Intelligence team. The first is a global 24/7 team that monitors electronic suspicious criminal activity such as hacking attempts, and then fully assesses and contains direct threats. This team might take measures such as taking control of someone’s machine to collect incident information while mitigating and neutralizing threats.

Meanwhile, the Attack Intelligence side works together to simulate real world attacks against the Gap Inc. infrastructure in stores and in at our corporate offices. We look outside to other industries to see how attacks are happening in the real world and emulate them in order to test our systems. It’s all in the name of making sure Gap Inc. is better, faster, and as prepared as possible.

Why did you pursue information security as a career?
I love of the unexpected creativity that can come from having to constantly think on your feet, and am a fan of the new philosophy of thinking in cyber defense where we can be more proactive. It allows us to further our own research and threat testing to aggressively hone our skills and see how we can take a more offensive stance on attacks. This field is constantly evolving; someone can go and create a new wave of monitoring and attacks that can change an industry overnight.

This field is a passion of mine; it will always be a constant challenge and the only thing that holds you back is your own curiosity to explore and your ability to understand something. If you enjoy technology, processes or mastering a piece of tech where you want to know everything about it, this place is for you. We love dissecting things down to their minutia.

If getting involved in information security sounds up your alley, check out our information security job listings.

For insider tips on keeping your information safe, read our Chief Information Security Officer’s top 7 tips for protecting your identity.