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Fort Wayne, IN, Oct. 16, 2015 - The Journal Gazette
Genius of 'Scorpion' talks tech at IPFW
RON SHAWGO | The Journal Gazette

The Boston bombers, race-horse victories, cyberattacks are all events with no apparent link. Except data. Lots of it.

Walter O'Brien, founder and CEO of Scorpion Computer Services and an executive producer of "Scorpion," the hit CBS drama based on his work, had his IPFW audience's attention Thursday.

A self-described "dairy farmer's son from Ireland," who was bullied as a child and never fit in until he found his place as a boy genius, pointed to a long list of client problems his company has resolved using high-tech detective work.

He helped weed out hours of useless video to quickly focus on the Boston bombing suspects. Horses were measured and studied hoof to tail to find the perfect anatomy of a winner. The list goes on.

As for cybersecurity, O'Brien would like to have strong computer code standards and monitoring controls to fight back against the 100,000 state-sponsored hackers he says target the U.S. every day.

"The attitude is everyone throws their hands up and goes, 'Oh well, that's computers. I guess they can't be stopped from being hacked,'?" he said. "Well, they're not black magic. They're math, and math is absolute, and there's absolute things you can do."

O'Brien's talk, attended by about 200 people at Walb Student Union, was co-hosted by the Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association and the Fort Wayne Base Community Council. Today, he will be on the Indiana Tech campus.

"Scorpion" was O'Brien's pseudonym when, at age 13, he hacked into NASA's computer system. The TV show portrays a ragtag team of computer and tech experts who solve problems of national security. It is in its second season, with actor Elyes Gabel playing O'Brien.

With an IQ of 197, O'Brien says he is among one in 1.5 billion rating that high. He started a company repairing computers at age 13 and gathered like-minded friends to help. The company has used its services to protect U.S. fighters in Afghanistan, O'Brien said, and has worked with such diverse companies as Disney and Raytheon, among many others.

When hiring, Scorpion pursues geniuses, sometimes by examining family trees. Even among that select group, 30 percent of recruits aren't hired, O'Brien said.

According to its website, "Scorpion is now a think tank for hire that provides intelligence on demand as a concierge service for funded challenges through"

Or, if you have a problem you can't tackle, will, for a price.

At $150 an hour, the service has helped rescue a woman from a Libyan prison ("we had her home in Beverly Hills within 48 hours") and prevented a gold digger from marrying a man from a wealthy family, O'Brien said. Finding a medical history for an adoptee took two hours, he added.

With adventures reminiscent of "Mission Impossible," it's not surprising a television show developed. O'Brien insists the show is another avenue to recruit young geniuses for his ventures. While they might watch, adults aren't necessarily the target audience.

"If I did a technically accurate show it would be a documentary on the Discovery Channel for one time," O'Brien said in an interview after his speech.

People have criticized scenes that show someone hacking a network in 30 seconds, he added. "Real hacking takes 24 hours," he said. "That's really boring, and we've got 43 minutes. So, sorry, we're going to hack in 30 seconds. But what we hacked and how we hacked and what language we used is all accurate."

Retired Col. David Augustine, senior vice president of business development for Stryke Industries in Warsaw, helped to bring O'Brien to Fort Wayne. Stryke is a defense firm that helps grow companies involved in manufacturing products for the military.

O'Brien is a client, said Augustine, chairman of the Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association and former commander of the Air National Guard 122nd Fighter Wing.

Using O'Brien's expertise, Augustine said the plan is to fast track technologies through the years-long federal procurement process to help prevent cyberattacks.

"Walter has the technology to protect America from cyberattack," Augustine said.