• Avinash Kumar

Meet the Speakers: Justin Horm

Updated: Jan 8

Justin Horm is the Senior Network Manager at St. John's College. His talk at TEDxStJohnsCollege will cover the pressing issue of cybersecurity in the age of Big Data.

Tell us a little bit about your talk.

From the beginning of human history, we have created and utilized data, but the world has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Now, data is everywhere, it is a huge part of our lives. But, we do not understand that such convenience comes at a cost. Information goes beyond big, to being used in manners that impact our lives in ways unseen. It is the data we cannot see as individuals that is both the most promising and the most dangerous. Like many advancements throughout human history, it is being both abused and weaponized. Moving forward, we need to engage with data and determine how to moderate it for ourselves and future generations.

Why cybersecurity? Why now?

For years, warnings have been sounded by information security professionals about the importance of privacy, data security, and malicious actors. Often times, this takes the form of showing people how easy it is to break into systems or steal the identity of an individual. In a sense, and I am guilty of this myself, we have been trying to scare people straight. It is not working. I believe that it is not working because there is a fundamental disconnect between how data is used by those taking advantage of it and how it is perceived by end users. We, as a society, simply do not understand data, and so I believe we need to shift that understanding more toward reality.

You insisted that we advertise your talk as one about data trafficking, which is clearly provocative. Is that intentional? Is it that heinous of a crime in your opinion?

I would say that there was a little less insistence on my part than you would suggest. However, I do believe we need to re-frame the conversation about data and start looking at it from a different perspective. So, in that sense, it is very intentional, but the purpose behind it is to generate conversation about the issue. The manner in which information and data is currently being used, both as a substance with which to keep people engaged and returning to various platforms, and how it is being deployed as a weapon, should be questioned, at least ethically, if not criminally.

We understand that you have a professional background in information technology, but what other aspects of your background helped shape this TEDx talk?

I have been in information technology for a decade and a half now, but like many in my profession, I did not begin by going to school for IT. I have a dual degree in English and Intellectual and Scientific History. In addition to reading a lot about security, intrusion, and such, I am an avid reader of history, everything from biographies to sweeping historical sagas. I believe the composite of handling the very microscopic aspects of data as part of my profession, to the broad understanding of human history, has all come together to shape this talk.

Many of us started to pay attention in light of data privacy laws propping up across the globe (take the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, for instance), but not all of us are fluent in the language of big data. How would you suggest preparing for your TEDx talk?

I have attempted to make the talk as accessible as possible, and hope that I have succeeded. I would come to the talk with an open mind, ready to learn a little history, the emergence of data, where it is now coming from, and how it is being used behind the scenes to affect not only your life, but the collective life of humanity. The goal is to make people understand that convenience with regard to communication and data comes at a cost, and it is dangerous to not be aware of such a cost.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jrahorm

TEDxStJohnsCollege is a series of talks delivered by students, staff, and alumni of St. John's College, MD. The event will take place on January 18, 2020 at the Francis Scott Key Auditorium at St. John's College. Buy your tickets at Follow us on Instagram (@tedxstjohnscollege) for updates.

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January 18, 2020


Francis Scott Key Auditorium,

St. John's College,

60 College Ave,

Annapolis, MD


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