“We learn what the bad guy is doing, and we go above and beyond to prevent it,” says Jake Izumi.

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Jake Izumi got interested in technology when he was “probably 10 years old.”

“I started doing programming on the side,” he said. “I started learning different programming languages. During that process, I created some applications. That’s when I became more interested in security.”

Izumi describes himself as a “hacker,” which means “I was always on the good side,” as opposed to a “cracker” who steals data or destroys systems. It’s a hands-on learning experience, he said. “We learn what the bad guy is doing, and we go above and beyond to prevent it.”

He now works for CMIT Solutions in Minneapolis, which provides support for small companies that have a big need for security. “When it comes to network administration, at CMIT we do backups in case something happens, and we make sure patches are up to date. It’s mandatory.”

Clients range from those with three to 24 employees and include financial advisers, attorneys and health care providers.

Izumi said that small businesses don’t always realize that they are vulnerable. “They think Windows has its own firewall, so they’re fine. They use antivirus software, so they’re fine,” he said. “They say, ‘We take backups seriously,’ but when we look at their system, they don’t take backups seriously.” That lower level of security makes small businesses attractive targets, Izumi said.

A small business that doesn’t have security in place can be an unwitting participant in a denial of service, or DOS, attack, Izumi said. “Crackers go into each personal computer and reside there. They don’t do anything until Microsoft is starting to launch a new product, for example. Now it’s time to attack — all they need to do is send a command from thousands of computers. It’s coming from everywhere. Microsoft can’t investigate. Ninety-nine percent of the computers involved belong to ordinary people.”

A growing concern is malware that locks users out of their systems until they pay a ransom to the crackers. “A virus goes in, files get encrypted. If you don’t send the money, you can’t use the computer,” Izumi said. While there are some approaches that can let users unlock their systems without paying the ransom, the best solution is “Back up, back up, back up,” Izumi said.

“Preventive action is more important than break and fix,” Izumi said. “Anyone can restore a computer. Managing and monitoring is a very hard thing to do. We pride ourselves on that.”

Q: What is the best part of the job?

A: Consulting — letting the client know what the problem is, what the solution is. It’s the CMIT business model but also what I very much enjoy. I have background in customer service and IT. A lot of IT people only speak IT. They can’t explain what was wrong and how we fixed it. I’ll make sure the client knows how I did it, what I did and why it was necessary.

Q: What are the challenges?

A: Since this is a new company, it is hard to maintain our current clients and follow up on leads. We have subcontractors — we have to make sure the schedule matches. We can’t take jobs away from technicians, but we can’t book them when I’m available.

Q: What’s the next step in your career?

A: I’d like to stay with the company and watch it grow. I like to help out people as much as possible from the position where I can reach them, educate them, let them be on the same level as a Silicon Valley company.