Curious, Innovative, Creative, Community Driven: Meet Cyb3rWard0g, Roberto Rodriquez

When I grow up I want to be? Dancer or a veterinarian

Happiest memories: Tearing up the dance floor at weddings and playing soccer in the streets of Lima, Peru

Previous Job roles: Mopped floors for McDonalds, packed boxes at an Avon warehouse, Manager at Olive Garden, Beer taster/server and then dove into tech and security

Dream Job: Zumba Instructor, he loves to dance and DJ music

Best advice to newbies: “Your individual passion project might not seem significant, but it might be the thing that launches your career if shared with the Infosec community. Also, get comfortable with learning new things on a daily basis. Stay curious and humble”

“Despite the obstacles you face and the doubts of others, Sí se puede,” 

Roberto Rodriguez is living proof that despite many obstacles and unknowns, you can do it! Everything he’s made of comes from his ability to push forward and persevere. His instinct to twist a negative into a positive is one of his many superpowers. His unrelenting ability to let nothing stand in his way leaves no doubt he could be on the cover of an inspirational poster you’d see in a classroom as a kid.

When he looks back at his family history to talk about this inner strength, he recalls his grandfather going back to school to learn mathematics. Or his mother, selling tamales, chips, and popcorn at school in parallel to her pursuit of an education—all to make a secondary income to support her family. Or his dad, who worked tirelessly to ensure his three boys were given every opportunity possible to succeed in life. Roberto’s upbringing and life experiences are intertwined with the mentality to push forward and give back. Through a big smile and bright eyes, Roberto did not hesitate to share what he stands for.

“I’m here for the community. A lot of stuff that I do is to build communities externally and internally. What I’ve been trying to do is bring other researchers together so we can collaborate,” Roberto said.

Roberto is a Miami born, Peruvian raised, reggaeton/salsa/cumbia/bachata/merengue-loving kind of person. He’s a real-life sponge, soaking up all the information he can, ready to share it at a moment’s notice.

Just over 15 years ago, Roberto arrived in the US from Peru and spoke zero English. On his first bus journey he recalls being unable to muster a response when asked for his name, having no clue what “name” even meant. What was familiar to Roberto were sports, especially soccer. Roberto was kicking around a ball at the local community center when a scout approached him about playing for a men’s soccer team at a community college in Delaware. The best part of the offer? Paid English lessons! Roberto jumped at the opportunity and began absorbing all he could.

As a kid, he had many interests. Sports, instruments, you name it, Roberto learned it. Computers were not necessarily on his radar, but by the time he was in Delaware, robotics captured his interest. With limited offerings at his school, he pivoted to network engineering. Though he quickly mastered these skills, the redundancies of setting up networks became a bit dull, so it was time to shift gears. He began exploring events and competitions in Cybersecurity on campus, where he quickly saw, many people didn’t want to share what they knew.

“I felt that people didn’t even want to teach me as much as I wanted. I was asking questions, and I remember one guy told me, “Just don’t bother me right now” Roberto recalls.

Roberto saw this sort of response frequently. Was it because his English was slightly broken? Was it annoying to some people that he could not communicate fluently, despite knowing the language? Did they not have enough time to explain, thinking he wouldn’t understand? All these questions swirled in his mind. And although they caused him distress, these negative moments would be the positive bricks he would lay so that others could walk in his footsteps. His gift is a fresh pathway to changing the narrative, where all are welcome and can be heard. To sum up Roberto is to say he is a giver, a sharer of knowledge, a safe place to ask questions, and an inclusive community builder.

“I wanted to talk to people that were not technical, to share my experience, to help others get started in cyber security,” Roberto said.

This style of sharing led to big things. He learned, he taught others what he had absorbed, and this cycle of rebirth created his first open-source project while he was working at Capital One.

“I remember telling my friend it would be nice to build something to share. It was a project to share knowledge about adversaries and share detections against adversaries’ behaviors. He replied that he didn’t have time. So, I thought, well I’ll just do it myself,” he said.

The project was called the ThreatHunter-Playbook, which has over 3,000 likes on GitHub and over 6,000 followers on Twitter. For an open-source project, this is HUGE.

This is the magic of Roberto. He sees the light at the end of a tunnel, turning a “No” into a “Yes!”. No obstacle is too big for this guy to jump over. This is Roberto Rodriguez!

This and other open-source projects launched Roberto to AWS, one of the many companies to recognize his abilities.

“This was crazy for me to have a company that big reach out. To say, we want you to join our team. It was amazing,” Roberto said.

Roberto’s contributions kept coming with projects such as OSSEM, Blacksmith, Security Datasets, etc. All of this led to Roberto forming the Open Threat Research (OTR) community where he leads the force in encouraging open-source collaboration across the Infosec community. In his Security Datasets project, he recognized that not everyone across the world had enough resources to perform research. Therefore, he provided them with free pre-recorded datasets.

“I started taking snapshots of data, and the things I was researching, things we collected in the lab. I was able to build and share this project so the community could take the telemetry, expedite research and help solve the problem.”

Roberto is giving a voice to those who would normally be overlooked. Empowering the community to lean in, contribute, and collaborate. Another one of his many superpowers.

Today, Roberto is continuing to solve the world’s biggest security problems within the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC). He already has built additional open-source projects such as SimuLand, Microsoft-Sentinel To-Go and Cloud Katana. In parallel, he’s making sure he shares his vision by cross-collaborating with other teams internally and top researchers externally. He understands the power of sharing knowledge and giving a voice to those who may not be heard. It’s important to him to share what he’s learned—to help inspire others like him who may not speak the language, so they have a voice. His goal is to spark fire in those who do not know they possess the power to make a change. This is why Roberto is special. He is a beacon for change, has a proven track record, and is a man who continues to propel forward while simultaneously inspiring others.

Stay connected with Roberto on Twitter: @Cyb3rWard0g.