Famed software security expert speaking at Laurel Ridge Wednesday, Jan. 22

For Immediate Release:
January 16, 2020

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

slug: 17HAB

Members of the public are encouraged to come to Laurel Ridge at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22, to hear famed local technologist Gary McGraw talk about the cutting-edge and timely work he is doing with the Berryville Institute of Machine Learning (BIML), which he cofounded a year ago.

Community members are also invited to watch the presentation live from the Paris Room on the Fauquier Campus.

“We’re working to teach engineers and technologists what kind of risks to think about when they’re building and fielding machine learning systems,” says McGraw, a self-described alpha geek, who has lived in Berryville for 20 years. “This is about security OF machine learning, as opposed to using machine learning FOR security.”

“We’ve been getting calls from Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, asking what we’re up to in Berryville, which is exciting. I did some very serious work establishing the field of software security in my pre-retirement career. I wrote the first book in the world on software security in 2000, one of 12 books I have written. For this work, I’m taking that very same core idea and applying it to machine learning.”

BIML will soon release a report identifying 78 particular risks in machine-learning systems, according to McGraw, who has a dual-doctorate degree in computer science and cognitive science. He says the press finds it generally acceptable to use the terms machine learning and artificial intelligence interchangeably.

“AI and machine learning have been sold as magic technology that magically solves all the problems in the world – poof – and that’s wrong,” McGraw says. “It’s important that we don’t take security for granted or overlook security in the headlong rush to adopt AI everywhere – and it’s showing up everywhere.”

It’s true, your smart phone and your other devices are using ML to parse your conversations, look at your pictures, and watch your web usage, he warns, all for the purpose of harvesting your data and keeping you on the device longer.

The innovative work of BIML is being done in weekly gatherings of its four associates around McGraw’s kitchen table in his house along the banks of the Shenandoah River.

Before founding the field of software security, McGraw researched and published work on machine learning 25 years ago as a student of Douglas R. Hofstadter, who is a renowned cognitive scientist, Guggeheim Fellow and the recipient of both a Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award.

“When we sold my company (Cigital to Synopsys), I was thinking, gosh, there sure is a lot of noise about machine learning these days, I wonder if any real progress has been made,” he says.

Turned out, not much had been, McGraw says. Computers are simply faster and have greater computing capacity now, and datasets for training machines are much larger.

“I think that the more people learn how computer security really works, the better off we are,” he says. “That’s why I’m on the curriculum advisory committee for computer science at Laurel Ridge, and working closely with Computer Science Professor Melissa Stange to ensure the college’s computer science and cybersecurity students can transition from the program straight into a job or seamlessly transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.”

McGraw’s presentation is part of the Tech Bytes: Technology Talks with Industry series organized by Professor Stange with input from McGraw.

The series is being funded by a grant Laurel Ridge received as part of the 2019 NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund, which is powered by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) with support from Microsoft Research. The purpose of the grant is to attract more women and minorities to the computer science field.

McGraw is on board with that goal, too.

“As a practicing geek, I’m very much concerned that we get more under-represented groups in the industry,” he says. “One of the most under-represented groups is females.”

It’s important to McGraw that community members don’t feel too intimidated to come to his talk because of their level of technology knowledge.

“You’re going to learn a bunch about ML and security in a very straightforward, easy, and probably funny way,” he says.

Attendees are asked to register for the talks – and learn about upcoming talks – at https://sites.google.com/email.vccs.edu/techbytes/Home.

Upcoming speakers include the 71st Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, senior advisor to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, chair of the Advisory Panel for Idaho National Laboratories’ Innovation Center, member of the Toyota Research Institute Advisory Board, member of the Homeland Security Secretary’s Advisory Council, director of the Center for a New American Security and Rhodes Scholar; and Heather Wilson, a James Wood High School and Shenandoah University graduate, who is the executive vice president, chief analytics & intelligence officer for L Brands, as well as a board member for Equifax.


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.