It takes a great thief to catch one.

In 1788, 13-year-old Eugène-François Vidocq, the son of a wealthy merchant in Arras, France, stole his father’s set of silver plates. Such began a life of crime that resulted in dozens of heists, led to several thrilling prison escapes and inspired the fiction of Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe and Honoré de Balzac.

The tale also caught the attention of Yan Shoshitaishvili.

Because the cybersecurity expert knew how the story ends.

At the age of 30, following a year of hiding in his mother’s house, Vidocq made a history-defining choice. He decided to stop trying to beat the authorities and, instead, joined them. With the blessing of Napoleon, Vidocq created the Sûreté, later reformed and renamed as the Police Nationale, the official law-keeping force of France. He recruited criminals and personally trained them, remarkably reducing crime in Paris.

Shoshitaishvili is an associate professor of computer science and engineering in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He also serves as associate director of workforce development at ASU’s Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations, or CTF.

He and his CTF team have been awarded a two-year, $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to establish an institute that will educate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and address critical workforce shortages.

As part of ASU’s Global Security Initiative, and with the DARPA funding, the CTF team has established the American Cybersecurity Education Institute, or ACE Institute. When considering how the new organization would function, Vidocq’s story and its ethos inspired Shoshitaishvili.

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