In his own words: Barry Johnson of Dara Security
Name/title: Barry Johnson/President, Dara Security
Number of years in this job: I founded Dara Security in January of 2014
Years in this profession: 25-plus years
Education: I have a bachelor’s of science in information systems from DeVry University and master’s in software engineering and telecommunications from Johns Hopkins University
Last book read: I read the same books my kids read so I can talk to them about it. I just read “Extras” by Scott Westerfeld, part of a four-part series my daughter was reading. For me, I just read “Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black
Favorite flick: “Star Wars.” I was a “Star Wars” fanatic as a child and I still enjoy it
What’s on your iPod: I don’t have one. I have an iPhone, and all I use it for is to check email, voicemail and make phone calls.
Spouse, kids or pets: My wife Vallery Labarre, have been married since 1997. We have two kids, my son is 13, his name is Zachary, and my daughter who is 11; her name is Hayley.
NNBW: Tell us about Dara Security and your responsibilities.
Barry Johnson: Dara Security is an information security company that helps clients with PCI and HIPAA and any other type of data privacy act they have to adhere to. We come in and review their setup and review how they are handling the information covered by those standards and make sure they are doing it right. As a small company of six people, I still wear multiple hats. I set the position of the company and deal with finances, and also go out and meet with clients. I do sales calls and also some delivery work, going in and doing testing, interviews and reviews — that is how a small company works.
NNBW: What led you to found Dara Security?
Johnson: I used to work for a company on the East Coast as their CTO. The owner sold the company and I had the option of leaving or moving back to Connecticut. I wasn’t moving, so I opened Dara Security here in Reno. Small markets don’t really get serviced by the security firms out there — they are trying to work with Target, Nieman Marcus and things like that. But small companies have the same threats, and I want to be able to work with small companies to bring them that knowledge and skills in a way that’s affordable.
NNBW: What’s behind the name?
Johnson: If you ever found a company, the name has to be unique. We went through about 100 different names, and the attorney that was helping us set up the company told us to go have a bottle of wine and see what works. My daughter likes Irish dancing, and we thought there had to be a Celtic knot out there that deals with security and honesty. Dara is actually a Celtic knot that symbolizes those virtues.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Johnson: I started off as a computer programmer, doing anything from payroll systems to smart programming and embedded systems. I got into network engineering because it was very interesting. My first security job just landed in my lap. I was doing all the networking, so I did all the security stuff too. It just grew from there. When I lived in Washington, D.C., I was a contractor for the government down at Langley working security and instant response, and when I left the government sector I started working for small companies, building up their practices by doing revues and making sure they were adhering to those data protection acts. As I helped build up a practice and each one got sold, I would move on to the next small company. This time, I decided to build my own practice.
NNBW: What are some of the challenges you face in trying to keep data secure?
Johnson: The toughest challenge we face is educating clients. A lot of small businesses are just trying to keep the doors open and make a profit, and they don’t understand the value of the data they have and why they would be a target.
NNBW: What are some of the issues facing the data security industry today?
Johnson: There are breaches that make the press, like P.F. Chang’s and Target, where hackers are targeting point-of-sale systems. That is the easiest place for them to take advantage because they realize that merchants large and small think that if it works, don’t touch it. Hackers know that during the Christmas or high-flow retail season they can break into the network and manipulate those devices or the software behind it. They know no one will look at it until its too late. That is a problem for small businesses too.
NNBW: What do you like most about your job?
Johnson: When I explain things to clients and I can see that light bulb go off when they finally understand it.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Johnson: When I was 15 I worked at a bowling alley. I cleaned lanes and bowling balls and fetched balls when they got stuck.
NNBW: What is your dream job?
Johnson: I love to cook. If I could open a small restaurant and cook whatever I felt like that day, that’s what I would do.
NNBW: How do you like to spend your free time away from work?
Johnson: I like to read and spend time with the family. We like to do things in the area, go hiking and stuff like that.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Johnson: I wanted to be a garbage man so I could hang off the back of the truck.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Johnson: I would open a restaurant.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Johnson: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game. That was good because Georgia won.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Johnson: We kept the company here because of my son — I was not going to move back East. What I like here is how much outdoor activity there is. I love the fact that it is about being outside. Even when it’s cold, you want to be out doing stuff.
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Per the agreement, Caesars will continue to operate Harrah’s for the first half of 2020 before it’s redeveloped into a non-gaming hotel and mixed-use development.