#SOURCEBoston: Dan Geer, international man of mystery

Perusing the schedule for SOURCE Boston, I got a chuckle from the part of the agenda that lists tomorrow's scheduled keynote from security luminary Dan Geer.

On the surface, nothing is amiss. It's a standard description of the keynote speaker, with his work history, claims to fame, etc.:

Day 2 Keynote - Dan Geer

Dr. Daniel Earl Geer Jr., Sc.D. serves as Chief Information Security Officer at In-Q-Tel. Dr. Geer serves as Principal of Geer Risk Services as well as an entrepreneur, author, scientist, consultant, teacher and architect. He has been a Member of Application Scoring and Responsible Disclosure Focus Team at Veracode Inc. since April 2007. He served as the Chief Scientist Emeritus and Vice President of Verdasys Inc. He served as the Chief Scientist of Verdasys Inc. He served as the Chief Technology Officer of @stake Inc. Prior to @stake, he served as Vice President and Senior Strategist at CertCo. Dr. Geer also served as Director of Engineering at Open Market, Inc. and as Chief Scientist and Vice President of Veritas (formerly, OpenVision Technologies).

Dr. Geer is an expert in computer security and has been recognized as a pioneer in the space for his insight into the critical issues that plague the security industry. He has been featured in publications such as Network World, Search Security and InfoWorld. A renowned expert in the field of network security, Dr. Geer has testified before the House Science and Sub- Committee on Technology regarding public policy in the age of electronic commerce. Dr. Geer has testified before Congress on multiple occasions and has served in formal advisory roles for the Federal Trade Commission, the National Science Foundation, the Treasury Department, the National Research Council, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Defense, the National Institute of Justice and the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection. He served as President of USENIX, the advanced computing systems association.

Dr. Geer holds a Sc.D. in Biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health and a S.B. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.

My amusement is over what's missing: A title for the keynote and a description of what Geer will be talking about.

That's usually how it is when Geer is scheduled to speak. You never know what he's going to talk about. Heck, I'm not sure he knows what he's talking about yet.

But that's how it is when you're one of the biggest security luminaries on the planet. You don't need to send in an advance description. All you have to do is show up, and the room will be packed.

Not all security speakers could get away with that. Nothing will freak out a conference planner like skipping out on a talk description and PowerPoint presentation. But Geer can. When he speaks, he delivers something the crowd will learn from, though it might take a few minutes for the message to sink in. He's that smart. Conference planners know this.

Some will read this and wonder if I'm secretly doing his PR. The fact of the matter is that while I've seen him speak many times, it's been a few years since we spoke one on one. The result was this Q&A. But I admit to a little bit of hero worship. Being smart never came easy for me, so I'm always drawn to those who make it look so effortless.

One thing I would like to hear about tomorrow are his thoughts on what has changed in the world since he was famously fired from @stake for co-writing a paper warning that a technological "monoculture" dominated by Windows products was a gathering threat.

Looking at the increasing diversity of computing tech people use beyond Windows -- from Macs, iPads and iPhones to all the business-enabling tools Google offers -- it would seem the world is moving away from that monoculture. That has to give him some sober satisfaction, though who knows?

Either way, I look forward to hearing from him again.

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