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By Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor
Cybersecurity has emerged as a top priority for railroads large and small, if the presentations and discussions we heard at last month's Secure Rail conference were any indication. And that's especially true for a company like Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), which faces the monumental task of securing its growing number of rail assets around the globe. The company now owns or leases 122 freight railroads in five countries.During a break at Secure Rail, I met Jacob Stocker, who serves as a network analyst for G&W. Part of his job involves identifying and evaluating potential security threats and vulnerabilities. He also performs risk assessments to help establish prevention plans.Needless to say, Stocker's duties at G&W won't be getting any easier. Since he joined the short-line holding company in June 2016, G&W has completed a number of acquisitions, including the Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. in November that year and Australia’s Glencore Rail in December.Before joining G&W, Stocker studied information securities and forensics at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, N.Y. He previously completed co-ops with RIT and internships at Quanterion Solutions Inc. in Marcy, N.Y. His current job marks his first rail industry gig.Curious to learn what it's like to assess cybersecurity risks on such a large scale, I reached out to Stocker after the conference. Our emailed conversation follows.What are some challenges you face securing IT systems across so many different railroads?Having so many railroads under the G&W umbrella presents itself as a challenging endeavor. However, we work hard to maintain consistency across all of our railroads. By keeping the platforms and systems of each railroad consistent, we are able to effectively manage, support and secure our systems across the globe. This requires extensive planning and coordination to ensure the successful integration of each acquired railroad.Describe a typical day at G&W.My daily job duties vary widely. Like every person in an information technology role, we are balancing several ongoing projects, maintaining our current systems and supporting the users interacting with those systems. Beyond those general categories, I am usually responding to potential incidents, fielding questions surrounding the security of new and old systems, meeting with and reviewing potential solutions and service providers, and helping further Genesee & Wyoming’s budding security program.Your background is in information technology/security. What drew you to the rail industry?When discussing information security, every company discusses security in the digital sense of the term. What drew me to the railroad industry is the combined importance of digital security and physical security, as digital security in this industry has the real potential to affect the availability and integrity of the physical equipment on locomotives and on the wayside.Favorite part of your job?I enjoy the fast-paced environment. I am interacting with a very diverse set of systems and gaining valuable experience with several different technologies along the way. What has to be my favorite part of the job is seeing an idea come to fruition. It is very satisfying to see each step of a project from start to finish.Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you want to stay in the rail industry?From what I have seen and done so far, I’d like to stay in the rail industry. I enjoy seeing the industry adapt to the new and continuously changing technology landscape, and being a part of the process is exciting. I like working with my team and am very grateful for the support we receive from the management. In five years, I see myself still working within the rail industry.