MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA.com) — As the new series “Scorpion” premiered Monday night on CBS, the real-life computer genius the show is based on discussed how the business he created at 13 is helping to solve a number of the world’s greatest threats.
Walter O’Brien, now 39, spent his childhood hacking into computers. He was discovered to be a genius, with an IQ of 197 — the fourth highest in the world.
O’Brien also grew up with an interest in helping the world.
“I grew up as many folks my age did: watching ‘Macgyver’ and ‘The A-Team’ and ‘Knight Rider’ and those kinds of shows,” O’Brien said. “And generally, it’s a bunch of oddballs that are trying to save the world, and that is what I ended up doing.”
At 13, O’Brien launched his business, Scorpion Computer Services, which today is a billion-dollar business, utilized by the U.S. government, as well as private companies, to solve some of the world’s most-serious threats.
“The naval bases in Afghanistan, we predicted the drug lords could do biological warfare to the water supply to the base and put arsenic in the water supply to the base, and we predicted that three months ahead, before it happened,” O’Brien said. “It changed military policy because of it, and that saved over 400 lives.”
Scorpion’s image surveillance helped capture terror suspects from the Boston Marathon bombing, and is now helping the U.S. Government deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
“We have been involved in various projects around (ISIS),” O’Brien said. “It is hard to get into specifics, we do a lot of satellite surveillance and image recognition of satellites. We did it for North Korea, when they were analyzing launch capability over to the U.S., and the same thing with the Malaysian Airlines crash, to make sure that the crash site wasn’t tampered with.”
Today, O’Brien lives in Los Angeles and is an executive producer of his story, through CBS’ “Scorpion.”
From what was an extremely private life, entering the public eye was a difficult decision for O’Brien.
“This was a case of, do I sacrifice my privacy and anonymity and make my life a little less comfortable and risky in order to benefit the world in three ways?” O’Brien asked. “To influence young kids to study computers more, to have more geniuses come out of the closet to help join us in our mission to do good, and then finally, have more people be aware of us, to know there is a group you can call when you have a problem.”
Hacking has made headlines of late, with data breaches in large companies and photos being hacked from cloud-based storage.
O’Brien has tips that can benefit anyone concerned with these types of hacks.
“In order to properly keep your data and passwords, it takes discipline, it takes backing it up, it takes having duplicate machines, having long passwords, changing your passwords every couple of months,” O’Brien said. “I haven’t lost any data since the early ’80s. I have every email I have ever received, which is nice to have, and most people lose 97 percent of their info, because they still don’t back up their systems.”
While O’Brien has accomplished a great deal in his life, he says that there remains plenty of work to do.
“We have saved lives, caught terrorism, stopped wars, and that is the highest and best use of my skills to protect the country that I can put out there. I am relentless when I do that with work, and I would not sleep for days until the project is done or the mission is finished. From that point of view, I have given my all to society.”