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Eric  O'Neill

Eric O'Neill

Former FBI Counterterrorism & Counterintelligence Operative & Inspiration for the Film Breach


In 2001, Eric O'Neill helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history: Robert Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI. The remarkable true events of his life are the inspiration behind the critically acclaimed dramatic thriller Breach, starring Ryan Philippe as O'Neill. The film set inside the FBI - the gatekeeper of the nation's most sensitive and potentially volatile secrets - is the story of the greatest security breach in US history. Read More >

Preceding Hanssen's arrest, O'Neill worked with the spy within the information assurance division that protected all classified FBI intelligence. O'Neill gained Hanssen's trust and used that relationship to slowly draw the traitor out of deep cover.  

O'Neill began his career in the FBI as a graduate of the FBI's Intelligence Program. He spent the first five years of his career as a special surveillance group field operative tasked to surveil and monitor foreign, national, and domestic terrorists and spies. He transitioned from field operative to direct undercover work focusing on Hanssen. Although his prior training had focused on “ghosting” targets from the shadows, he engaged his target in conversation in order to elicit information needed to catch Hanssen in the act of espionage. The singular nature of the assignment, one with little backup or support, required O'Neill to draw from deep reserves of courage and confidence within himself to battle Hanssen's mind games and aggressive probing and learn to "stop reacting to Hanssen and begin acting." 

Currently, Eric O’Neill runs The Georgetown Group, a premier investigative and security consultancy, where he specializes in counterintelligence operations, investigations into economic espionage, cyber security penetrations, internal investigations, catching the trusted insider and security risk assessment consulting out of Washington, DC.  Eric is also the National Security Strategist for Carbon Black, the leader in next generation endpoint protection, where he provides insight and advice on strategic cyber-security issues and will work to ensure Carbon Black is an active participant in the conversation about the national strategy for cyber security.  

O'Neill's story is one of patriotism, of decisive action in the face of fear, and of learning to maintain confidence in ability even if it looks like success is impossible. He has told his story in national media, in print, on radio, and on television including 20/20, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Mathews, Fox News Power Player of the Week with Chris Wallace, CNN, CSPAN's Washington Journal, NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," World News Now, MTV, and Access Hollywood

A talented motivational speaker who weaves real life experiences into a presentation that is both entertaining and rewarding, Eric O’Neill provides practical insights into real work situations relevant to many industries. In addition to his experience in the Hanssen case, he also addresses the issues of confidence and patriotism, the threat to United States security posed by terrorism, foreign intelligence services, the cyber threat to our national infrastructure and the national conscience in a monitored society. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Cybersecurity in the Age of Espionage

Why Backgrounds Matter


On Fox News

Johnny Rockets Internal Conference

At Auburn University

Speech Topics

Cyber Security in the Age of Espionage

The Internet is not a safe environment. It is a frontier. Recent years have seen a massive increase in cyber theft of private and confidential information from government agencies, business and private individuals. The modern spy is responsible for these attacks. Today s spies are sophisticated, brilliant, devious and technologically advanced, and they are targeting your data. Robert Hanssen was the first of these new cyber spies, charged with selling American secrets to Russia for more than US$1.4 million in cash and diamonds. His ability to exploit computer systems allowed him to protect his identity during a 22-year spy career. Join Eric as he uses real-life spy stories to show how careful diligence, counter-espionage techniques, and restraint in social media can help identify the numerous spies, hackers, hacktivists and trusted insiders that threaten every stroke of the keyboard.

A Spy Story: Setting Goals & Achieving Them through Courage, Confidence & Determination

Imagine being locked in a room for eight hours a day with the most ruthless and damaging spy in United States history. Imagine feeling unqualified and outgunned, knowing that the country depends on you to succeed despite the fact that no one has provided the means to do so. This is Eric O’Neill’s story of acting to take control and how he not only excelled, but succeeded in the center of the FBI’s most important espionage investigation. This is not just an edge of your seat spy thriller, but about discovering tools for success inside oneself by setting small goals that lead to big accomplishments until finally, through courage, confidence and determination, victory is achieved.

Corporate Security: The Top Ten Things You Should Be Doing to Secure Your Company

Companies and individuals need to think like spy hunters in order to protect themselves from fraudsters, hackers, cyber criminals, spies, identity thieves and an assortment of other bad actors. Eric O’Neill’s keynote will explore a number of steps corporations and individuals can take to secure critical information, including counter espionage techniques, addressing the trusted insider problem, surviving social media, the importance of diligence and themed for a robust cyber security strategy. Throughout the Top Ten Things, he will weave stories from his experience as a security advisor, attorney and FBI operative to provide entertaining case examples. 

Setting Goals & Achieving Them Through Courage, Confidence & Determination

How the World Will End: Cyber Security in a Shrinking World

Personal Security in Cyberland: The Top Ten Things You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Scammers, Fraudsters & Hackers

Counter Espionage Tactics: Protecting Your Company from the Rogue Employee & the Outside Spy

Breach: My Life's Role in Bringing Down the Enemy