EXCLUSIVE: Frank Abagnale’s Advice to Young People – ‘Get a Career in Cybersecurity’

What career advice would Frank Abagnale give to the younger generation starting out today? “Get a career in cybersecurity.”

In a wide-ranging interview published today, Abagnale explores the cybersecurity landscape with Techopedia and suggests: “When young people ask me what career they should look into, I tell them that cybersecurity would be their best opportunity.”

Key Takeaways

  • Frank Abagnale, known for his exploits in “Catch Me If You Can,” advocates for a career in cybersecurity.
  • His extensive expertise, honored by organizations like the FBI, underscores the urgency of addressing cybersecurity threats in our digital age.
  • Abagnale warns of the ease with which modern criminals exploit technology, stressing the need for prevention, verification, and education.
  • Read our full interview here on Techopedia.

A controversial giant in the cybersecurity and fraud arenas, most may know Abagnale from the 2002 Steven Spielberg blockbuster movie “Catch Me If You Can,” a largely biographical account of the explosive cons Abagnale pulled off in an age where computers were the size of rooms and the tools of the trade were charisma, confidence, and patient hours crafting security credentials.

But to the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abagnale is an honorary member and long-standing lecturer.

More than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations, and law enforcement agencies use his fraud prevention programs. In 1998, he was selected as a distinguished member of “Pinnacle 400” by CNN Financial News, a select group of 400 people chosen based on great accomplishment and success in their fields.

Last year, he was the recipient of the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award given by InfraGard  — a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and private sector members to protect US critical infrastructure.

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It puts Abagnale in a fascinating and unique position to tell us about the state of cybersecurity in 2024  — what we can do better, the risks facing global infrastructure, enterprises, and each of us potential victims, and the risks facing our future.

Because the world is very different today from when a great smile, a suit, and an ID card could get you into the cockpit of a plane.

Today, we trade off our personal details for a free login to a social media site, re-use our passwords, or at best, use password managers.

And — except for the most security-conscious people out there (kudos!) — we float through life without care that more than a million ransomware attacks happen per day.

Speaking about the acceleration of technology over time, Abagnale says: “Technology breeds crime. It always has and always will. Artificial intelligence is going to cause a tsunami of problems because of criminals’ ability to commit all types of crimes and scams.

“Fifty-plus years ago, when I forged checks, you needed a million-dollar printing press, color separations, negatives, plates, and typesetting.

“Today, you can create a four-color check on your laptop in less than 15 minutes with corporate and bank logos. And you can buy security check paper online or in any office supply store and print it out on your laser printer.”

He reminds us that the advantage is with the criminals: “You can commit a crime from thousands of miles away and never fear that you’ll be caught”, and why the three-point philosophy he lives by is prevention, verification, and education.

“Prevention because once you lose your money, you will probably never get your money back.

“They may arrest the individual. They may convict them. They may even send them to jail for ten years, but you won’t recover your money.

“Verification because anything today can be replicated, duplicated, counterfeited, deep-faked, or AI-manipulated. So today, you must be 100% sure that the person on the other end of that device is who they say they are.

“However, education is the most powerful tool for fighting crime. If I can explain to you how the scam works and you understand it, you will not be a victim of that crime.”

From how China could wreak havoc in the US, his dislike of passwords, why the future contains passkeys, and why companies push technology out without considering the consequences  — “we have to get it out by Christmas.”

Enjoy our fascinating exclusive with a man who has fought on both sides of the battlefield and is one of the pre-eminent voices in the cyber threat landscape today.

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Eddie Wrenn
Content Editor

Eddie is a reporter and senior news editor who has worked in local, national, and international newsrooms in both the UK and Australia, including the Mail Online and Sydney Daily Telegraph over the last 20 years. A former science and tech editor, his focus at Techopedia is on emerging technology and breaking news. He has also previously worked within product teams for Microsoft and News Corp, with a focus on bringing new editorial tools into newsrooms. He is currently based in London, UK, and spends his spare time reading and scuba diving.