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Meet Stacey Cook, cowgirl turned cyber ops and resilience professional

Stacey Cook, photo provided by Idaho National Laboratory

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and each week we will feature profiles of students pursuing degrees and careers in cybersecurity. 

Master’s student Stacey Cook didn’t always know she was going to become a cybersecurity student and professional. In her words, “I grew up riding horses and chasing cows and could not care less about computers.”

Cook was raised in Dillon, Montana, and received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Montana State University-Bozeman before joining the U.S. Air Force. While in the Air Force, supervisors asked her to learn more about cyber to support mission needs. Unbeknownst to Cook, this directive would reshape her future plans, and draw her into a new and fascinating world of information.

“The more I learned, the more I became interested,” Cook said. “I thought I was going to either be a wildlife biologist and study birds, or a wildlife infectious disease researcher. Life throws curve balls, and I just went with it and I’m very happy where it has turned out so far.”

Cook lives in Rigby, Idaho and works as a control system cyber security analyst at Idaho National Laboratory’s Cybercore Integration Center, while also pursuing her graduate degree at Boise State in cyber operations and resilience.

With her biology background, Cook finds that the overlap between cyber systems and living systems gives her a unique perspective and understanding of cybersecurity, and she enjoys the system-wide approach of Boise State’s curriculum.

“I love the way this degree program thinks about cyber security,” Cook said. “It takes the approach of thinking about the entire system instead of just one or two devices to protect an entire network. I take the same mindset from biology in that it is a system and I love learning how systems interact and operate.”

When asked about her goals, Cook pointed to critical infrastructure and services as an area where she wishes to put her cyber operations and resilience knowledge to work.

“I would like to make a difference on a national scale,” said Cook. “In light of recent cyber attacks, many have realized just how vulnerable and dependent we are on services such as electricity, gas, and water. Those are so crucial and I want to make a difference by helping to protect those services, or at least help make them more resilient.”