Cyber Security for the Project Manager


Am I at Risk?



By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland, USA

In our 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium, Susan Parente, Engineer and Consultant, spoke on this topic during her presentation, titled “Cyber Security for the Project Manager: Am I at Risk?” And we would like to share this important knowledge with you.

Susan Parente has a wide area of expertise that includes project risk management and IT security, as well as 15 certifications (including 10 Agile certifications and 4 IT security/ risk certifications) for professional education and teaching purposes. She has more than 25 years of experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors and has 2 decades of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD and other federal government agencies. Parente is a consultant, author, teacher, and speaker in the fields of Program and Project Management, Agile Project Management, and Risk Management (both Project Risk Management and IT Security). She is currently working on program management support for a cybersecurity effort, completing independent verification and validation testing of systems for FEMA.

Coming from the fields of Project Management and IT Security, Susan has found that people have a lack of knowledge when it comes to IT Security, and she strives to bridge that gap. Speaking on “Common Threats and Vulnerabilities”, She defines some terms within the Cybersecurity world. Phishing is described as the fraudulent practice of sending email that is masked as coming from a viable source, with the goal of having individuals divulge personal information. These emails need to be looked at closely for any discrepancies or information that doesn’t look quite right, such as the sender’s email address. Parente notes that this tactic is very commonly used and unfortunately often works. Social Engineering is another deception by fraudulent parties to manipulate someone into sharing personal information or confidential information (sensitive data). With this there is a sense of urgency and threat of some negative outcome used to get people to provide personal information. Those who are not computer savvy, such as seniors, are often a target. Spyware and the Trojan Horse are malicious programs packaged in what appears to be legitimate software (including games or software marketed to be helpful to the user). These will run in the background and spy on your computer system or may even delete files.

Continuing with the shared terms on cybersecurity threats; Viruses are hidden in software, infecting one’s computer and attempting to spread to all on your contact list. Ransomware is another type of malicious software which is used to hold your computer data ‘hostage’ until you provide a payment to release it and regain access to your computer. This is another great reason to back-up your data. A Worm is a virus which is a program that infects your computer and then works on its own and propagates, by sending itself to other computers. A DoS, or Denial of Service, Attack has the specific goal of hitting a particular website or server until the volume of hits takes the system down, thus denying service to others.

So, why is Cybersecurity so important? Susan Parente helps in answering this question for ourselves by providing a deeper look into this field and the threats within. She first notes that Cybersecurity, a.k.a Information Technology Security, is made up of the techniques that protect computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or attacks on one’s computer or systems. A Cyber Attack is an attempt to cause damage or destruction to a computer system or network. Cyber-attacks can target an individual or an entire organization with the intent to disrupt, disable, destroy, or control a computer, its environment, or infrastructure, destroy the integrity of data, or steal information.

Susan moves on to discuss the threat of Attacks and Breaches. An Attack is the attempt to gain unauthorized access to information or services, or to harm IT systems. A Breach is an incident that ends in an attack as a result of bypassing the security structure of the system. Susan quotes an important datapoint from Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report that states, “90% of successful cyber-attacks succeed because of human error”. She then provides an example of these ‘human errors’ that she has personally encountered in her work. Parente explains that within organizations people have access to different systems of the organization and when they leave the company their account to these systems is sometimes not removed…


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How to cite this article: Cable, J. (2021). Cyber Security for the Project Manager: Am I at Risk? Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/pmwj114-Feb2022-Cable-cyber-security-for-the-project-manager.pdf

 About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he has been a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer two undergraduate minors, 3 master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/