Jibran Ilyas: A Rare Pakistani-American Success Story
By Dr. Mujahid Ghazi
Jibran Ilyas (right) with Dr. Mujahid Ghazi at ABN Studio
Computer Security is a field that is relevant to all of us. Whether we got hit with a virus or have suffered identity theft, we have come to realize computer security as one of the most important things we need to deal with. Every summer, DEFCON, which is World Largest Hacking/Computer Security Conference, is held in Las Vegas. In this conference, the world's renowned hackers/security professionals present their research to approximately 5000 to 7000 attendees. This year, DEFCON 17 (marking the 17th year of this conference) will be held July 30 - August 2, 2009 at Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This year's DEFCON is special for our community as our very own Computer Security expert, Jibran Ilyas will be speaking at the conference. He will be presenting "Malware Freak Show" with his colleague Nicholas Percoco at the main DEFCON 17 event. Since Jibran works in the computer security field and investigates credit card frauds through Computer Forensics, he will be showing how hackers steal credit card data from Restaurants, Hotels, Retailers or any business who accepts credit card transactions. Jibran works for the world renowned Security Consulting firm, Trustwave which has its headquarters in Chicago. He will be representing Spiderlabs division of the company at DEFCON 17. His other research proposal was accepted as well, this one at Defcon Skytalks. The title of that talk is "Only the Ones Close to You Can Hurt You – How Computer Memory (RAM) Defies You". In this talk, he will alert the security community on how hackers are adapting their techniques to access private data as security controls are becoming widespread.
Jibran was born in Karachi, Pakistan and came to the United States at the age of 14. He went to Senn High School (International Baccalaureate Program) and during his senior year there, he won a Game Show which awarded him a full four-year scholarship at DePaul University in Chicago. He completed his Bachelors in Network Security and Business Administration in 2005 from DePaul. In 2007, he got into Northwestern University in Evanston, IL in a Masters Program focused on IT and Business Management.
The interesting and proud part for both me and Pakistan Link is that we had covered Jibran Ilyas in Pakistan Link's Community Section about 8 years ago when he won a scholarship to DePaul University. At that time, he told us that he wants to do something big in IT. Eight years down the road, he is representing us in the most elite IT security event of the world, DEFCON. A promised fulfilled indeed!
Other than academics and work, Jibran has been part of various community organizations, but the one that he has had the longest association with and still holds a position in is Asian Broadcasting Network (ABN). It was the first such organization he joined and has stayed connected through all of eight years. He is the host and co-director of the Youth Show which airs every Sunday at 1590AM and streams live all over the world at http://abnchicago.org. In year 2004, Jibran founded a Pakistani Students Association (PSA) at DePaul University which went on to be a phenomenal success story for the youth of Chicago. The PSA of DePaul still remains the best Pakistani Students Organization among Chicago colleges and universities. Jibran has worked with me in several other organizations as well such as Al-Shifa Foundation, Federation of Suburban Pakistanis, and Pakistan American Medical Center, to name a few. He has been a wonderful disciple and his recent successes come as no surprise to me at least.
I got in touch with Jibran before his departure for DEFCON to find out more about the talk and how he feels about representing Pakistan and Chicago at such an elite event. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Dr. Mujahid Ghazi: First of all, congratulations for being accepted at DEFCON. Tell us how you feel about this?
Jibran Ilyas: Thanks so much Ghazi Uncle. I can't help but think about sitting down for my first ever interview with you about 8 years ago. What a coincidence it is that the article you were writing at the time was for Pakistan Link as well. You and Pakistan Link are my lucky charm I guess. I feel truly blessed to be accepted for a talk at DEFCON, it is a dream of every security expert. I am very thankful to my parents, siblings and friends for always being an incredible support for me.
Dr. Mujahid Ghazi: It’s interesting that you mention that article. I do remember writing it 8 years ago. So tell me how the journey has been over the last 8 years.
Jibran Ilyas: Well, you have been part of all those years and I must give you the most special of thank you because you were the one who believed in me and recruited me in Asian Broadcasting Network, which was an absolute honor. I remember bragging about getting into ABN's committee. I believe we were organizing a fundraiser with Zia Mohiuddin as a special guest at that time. Over the last 8 years, the academics and work have been great, but the most satisfying things I have done is being part of all these community organizations with you. I have worked with you on many successful community events and that is what makes me proud. Your radio station has been a catalyst in my career as it has been for many other students here in Chicago. Thank you for being my mentor all these years, it has been your guidance and encouragment that makes me confident of achieving these great feats.
Dr. Mujahid Ghazi: So what's next? You have seemed to have fulfilled your last promise very quickly so it’s time for a new one.
Jibran Ilyas: Since you and Pakistan Link seem to be my "Jaadu ka Chiragh", I sincerely wish that I can keep making you, my family and friends proud. I want to write a book on Computer Security and would like to continue my research in this field. The most important wish is to be able to serve the community with you. I do a fraction of the work compared to you and I feel great, I can only imagine how satisfied you'd be from within after serving the community as much as you do.
This was a candid interview with Jibran who is off to Las Vegas to present the "Malware Freak Show" at DEFCON 17. To find out more about his talks, visit
Pakistan Link and I (on behalf of Asian Broadcasting Network) congratulate him and wish him the best for his talks. The article that appeared in Pakistan Link eight years ago can be seen at: