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Brockway graduate overseeing cybersecurity for SpaceX launches | Local | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CA – Whenever the national news covers a new SpaceX launch, chances are the company handling the cybersecurity on that launch sent in a 1980 Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School graduate.

David Steinbach works for Range Generation Next (RGNext), a cybersecurity contract company working for the government at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Securing rocket ships is not where Steinbach expected to end up when he left Brockway over four decades ago.

“I joined the Air Force and was stationed at Vandenberg,” he said. “I found jobs here ever since.”

Steinbach, the son of Raymond and Jennie Steinbach, started supporting the 394th Intercontinental Ballistic Test Maintenance Squadron. When his time of service ended, he said he “just stayed and became a contractor.” He was a computer repair person, a systems administrator, and kept learning his way up the ladder.

“The last 10 years, I’ve been in cybersecurity,” he said. “It’s a field that’s ever-changing, and it’s very important in the nature of what we do.”

RGNext works with the military and companies like SpaceX to secure the “range” when missiles are launched. According to its website, it provides support through testing, launch, and tracking of missiles. In the case of Steinbach’s work, that protection is related to cyberthreats.

“When missiles are launched, we monitor and give information to the launchers,” he said. “We also handle the secure equipment and take care of them if they need to be destroyed.”

Over the years, Steinbach has seen a lot of technological changes, but the job of keeping the U.S. and its companies secure remains the same.

“The tools which we use have changed and are more sophisticated,” he said. “How we analyze systems has changed, and it continues to change. When our adversaries become more sophisticated, we have to do the same and secure our systems. Many of our systems are standalone, so they’re not on the internet, so it’s difficult for them to break in, but they still have to be secured. When securing systems, you have to prepare for outside and inside threats.”

When Steinbach left Brockway, he first went to Penn State University’s DuBois campus. He found that being adaptable is important in staying ahead of the technological curve.

“My greatest strength is keeping an open mind and rolling with the punches,” he said. “When things change, you can’t be rigid. You have to keep learning and changing. You have to stay up to date, so you always grasp new information.”

Keeping up to date has Steinbach watching all the evolving AI situation, and he does not expect a doomsday scenario like “Terminator.” Instead, he believes the problem AI will create will be more individual than apocalyptic.

“It’s going to eliminate jobs,” he said. “People should be worried about that more than anything else. When you automate so many things, it impacts people in the economy. AI can write movies and poems, and I’m working with one that can generate graphics for me based on what I say. AI is in its infancy, and it can already do all that.”

AI has not taken over the security for launches at Vandenberg Space Force Base, however. Steinbach said that launches have increased a lot, even tripling in the past couple of years.

Steinbach lives 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, and the base is right on the coast. He described the coastline as “absolutely gorgeous” and said the weather stays around 70 degrees year-round. However, he feels like he brought his Pennsylvania work ethic to the West Coast.

“Brockway is a hard-working, blue-collar factory town,” he said. “My dad was a mechanic working for Shaw Trucking, so I learned to work hard to get what you need and to get ahead. People there work hard to put food on the table. Being out here, you appreciate it more, because in California, it’s a lot different than the small communities in Pennsylvania. It’s difference culturally, just by the vast nature of what California is and done.”

He keeps connected to this area through his brother Norman in Reynoldsville and his sister Mona Wilson in Pittsburgh. If he had the chance to talk to seniors at his alma mater, he would tell them to give their best effort, no matter how mundane or small the job is.

“Look at your options,” he said. “A college education is not necessarily the best avenue for some people. Look at getting certifications in the field you want to do. It can sometimes get you pretty far. In my field, certifications are just as important as a college degree. You have to study and take tests to get them. If you get them, you can make a good living. Keep moving forward and try not to become complacent. No matter where you grew up, you can succeed.”

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