Chapter Focus: Birmingham, Alabama

By Heather McCalley | 2016-2017 InfraGard Birmingham Members Alliance

Just before 9/11, a group of concerned citizens met to gauge interest in forming an InfraGard chapter in Birmingham, Ala. Their original thoughts were to bring people together in the region while also bridging perceived gaps between the I.T. community and law enforcement. Little did they know when they met on Sept. 6, 2001, that their skillsets and passions would be needed in the fight against global terrorism that escalated five days later when all our lives changed. From the beginning, Birmingham has been known as the geekiest of InfraGard chapters, but its roots were firmly planted in critical infrastructure by the early chapter leadership as well. Gary Warner represented Oil & Gas, Daniel Clemens represented the Information Technology sector, Greg McGill represented the HealthCare industry, and Steve Adwell represented Financial Services. Each was an I.T. security expert, but each brought the view of their critical infrastructure. The coordinator from the Birmingham FBI field office was Mike Mauldin. Longstanding InfraGard members may recall Clemens because he set up and ran the earliest listservs not only for Birmingham, but also the Presidents’ and Regional Mailing lists, as well as several InfraGard special interest groups. Warner may also be a familiar face as he served on the national board from 2002 to 2004.

Celebrating InfraGard Birmingham’s 15th anniversary were: front
(L to R) Martin Howell, Patrick Burch, Alex Brewer, Paul Daymond, and back (L to R) Roger Stanton, Greg McGill, Daniel Clemens, Gary Warner, Steve Adwell, Mike Shaw, Heather McCalley, Dennis Sel

Some of the most interesting history of the chapter includes its involvement with the Botnet Taskforce through the Birmingham Field Office’s Birmingham Bot Farm. InfraGard members and computer science students from University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) worked with FBI Cyber Special Agents Kevin Parker and Gina Scaldaferri to execute and monitor malware from more than 30 major botnets, providing regular reporting on cases such as MitGleider, the Storm Worm, Waledac, and many others. InfraGard members from several sectors worked regularly in the Bot Farm, building relationships with cyberagents working on malware cases across the nation and the world. While the Bot Farm is no longer active, Birmingham InfraGard members continue to make regular contributions in this area.

Gary Warner eventually left his I.T. role and started teaching computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he now leads the Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research. He also serves as Chief Threat Scientist for PhishMe where some of his research is put into action. Daniel Clemens formed two companies, Packetninjas LLC, a niche cyber security consulting and services company, and ShadowDragon, which licenses specialized cyber investigation tools. Greg McGill retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, but remains passionate about cybersecurity, while Steve Adwell continues to serve the credit union industry from his position as VP of Security at EPL. Agent Mike Mauldin set a high bar for other very active coordinators, a role which is now filled by Public Relations Specialist Paul Daymond.

This past September, the group held a 15th anniversary celebration during which immediate past President, Martin Howell, asked, “Where were you in 2001?” and invited members to think back to the time of the Anna Kournikova virus, Code Red, Klex, Gober, and Nimda. Do you remember that 2001 was the same year that Agile development was first outlined, iTunes was released, BitTorrent was launched, Xbox was born, and Windows XP was shiny and new? After Howell set the stage, Gary Warner and Daniel Clemens shared stories of the early days and expressed their continued support of the InfraGard mission. Howell then presented InfraGard 20th anniversary pins to Warner, Clemens, McGill and Adwell.

Today the Birmingham chapter is one of InfraGard’s most active IMAs, having met almost every month since September 2001, drawing mostly on its members for timely, interesting presentations that are usually focused on cybersecurity. The chapter’s success is bolstered by Daymond and the SAIC of the Birmingham Field Office, Roger Stanton. Aside from regular coordinator duties, Daymond goes above and beyond to make new connections happen, such as by helping to organize joint meetings with the Huntsville, Ala., IMA. Stanton attended the first meeting after he came to Birmingham, and he is a regular, truly showing a commitment to the mission and a strong desire to listen to the community.

Most recently, 2014-2016 President Martin Howell set up EventBrite for monthly meetings, allowing easy RSVPs and lunch orders. The chapter also actively manages a website, a LinkedIn group, and a Twitter profile. The Birmingham IMA Board involvement in the first annual Alabama Cyber Now conference in April 2015 funded a new scholarship at UAB in recognition of Warner’s passion for and achievement in training up cybercrime investigators.

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