Alumni Spotlight: Patrick Dunne ’06 ’12

 In Alumni

As a sheriff’s deputy, Patrick Dunne used to patrol the streets of Sarasota County where he grew up after moving from Chicago with his parents.

Now, as a computer forensics investigator for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Patrick patrols the information highway, looking for digital bad guys intent on stealing data or breaching accounts.

That’s where the similarities end. Instead of his high-powered cruiser and weaponry, Patrick’s arsenal includes a couple of monitors, a laptop, and some special software that helps him detect the threat level of any suspicious email or downloaded file.

“It happens more often than we think,” Patrick said. “Home users and commercial users are vulnerable to these threats.”

Cyber criminals have become so sophisticated in their techniques, Patrick said, that their bad code could be downloaded onto a user’s computer (and thus, an entire network) by the seemingly innocent act of clicking on an unknown link. The user would never suspect that anything bad had happened, but Patrick’s team would receive an alert.

“Every day is different,” Patrick said. He said he enjoys being able to take a deeper dive into the threats his company receives, and working to find a solution. He also enjoyed that aspect of his work as a deputy, patrolling the streets and never knowing what to expect each day.

Patrick said he became interested in furthering his education when he saw that he could receive his master’s degree in digital forensics completely online from UCF. “I knew I could go back and do something more,” he said. So Patrick, who was working fulltime overnights, completed the degree in two years.

It was par for the course for Patrick, who earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in three years. Going into digital forensics was a surprising choice for Patrick, he said, because he didn’t consider himself a “techie” by any stretch of the imagination.

Through it all, however, Patrick found that the UCF community embraced him, and encouraged him throughout. He even landed an internship during graduate school with a small company in Sarasota. It was there, Patrick said, that he gained the experience to launch him into a career immediately after graduation. His last day at the sheriff’s office was on a Friday; on Monday, he reported for work at CACI International Inc., a defense contractor in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The job at CACI required a top-secret level security clearance, Patrick said, and he had briefed his friends, family and references that they would be questioned extensively about him.

‘“You didn’t tell me your nickname was Puppy!”’ the investigator said to Patrick. The moniker was left off Patrick’s application, but the thorough investigator had uncovered it anyway.

Apparently, when Patrick was a new recruit at the sheriff’s office, he was tasked with patrolling a stretch of highway where he saw little action. His fellow deputies noted that Patrick was driving back-and-forth, back-and-forth, just like a puppy in a dog run. Of course, the nickname stuck for the whole seven years he was working at the sheriff’s office.

After spending four years in Virginia, Patrick and his wife, Breanna, yearned to move back to the Sunshine State to be closer to their families. As fate would have it, one of the hiring managers at his current job was a UCF alumnus who had also graduated with a digital forensics degree.

Patrick and Breanna are the proud parents of Baylin, their 1-year-old son. He is, of course, the smartest baby ever, Patrick said. The family enjoys frequent trips to Walt Disney World, and Baylin already appears to be a pro-level visitor.

Patrick truly believes that UCF changed his life. His advice to current students? “Enjoy your time here, don’t try and rush it like I did,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll get through it, the people at UCF are here to help. You never know where life is going to take you.”

 

By Camille Dolan ’98

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