RIP Barnaby Jack: The infosec community loses a star

Barnaby Jack, a respected genius of the information security community, passed away.

The name Barnaby Jack is infamous in information security circles--especially with the crowd that will descend on Las Vegas next week for the Black Hat and DefCon security conferences. Last year Jack demonstrated a hack that could cause an insulin pump to release a fatal dose from 300 feet away, and this year he was scheduled to present an attack that can disable a pacemaker from 30 feet away. 

His hacks seem like scary stuff you expect to find only in a Mark Russinovich novel. The fact that they aren't fictional makes them scarier...and also makes his research that much more important. 

Black Hat issued a statement about the death of Barnaby Jack:

We have lost a member of our family. Everyone would agree that the life and work of Barnaby Jack are legendary and irreplaceable. Barnaby had the ability to take complex technology and intricate research and make it tangible and accessible for everyone to learn and grow from. Beyond his work in our industry, Barnaby was an incredibly warm hearted and welcoming individual with a passion for celebrating life. We all have a hilarious and upbeat story about Barnaby. He is truly a shining example of what we love about this community.

Black Hat will not be replacing Barnaby's talk on Thursday, Aug. 1. No one could possibly replace him, nor would we want them to. The community needs time to process this loss. The hour will be left vacant as a time to commemorate his life and work, and we welcome our attendees to come and share in what we hope to be a celebration of his life. Barnaby Jack meant so much to so many people, and we hope this forum will offer an opportunity for us all to recognize the legacy that he leaves behind.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Barnaby Jack's family and loved ones. Words cannot adequately describe how much he will be missed, but it is certain that Barnaby will NEVER be forgotten.

I've attended a number of security events and conferences over the years, but I never had the pleasure of meeting Jack. I spoke to a few people who knew him, though, to get their thoughts on the man behind the hacks. He'll be remembered for his hacking prowess, but it seems those who knew him best will really remember his smile, his laugh, and his buoyant, impish charm. He had fun.

Anthony Freed, a security researcher and community manager at Tripwire and former editor at InfoSec Island  spent a lot of time with Barnaby in Miami at Hacker Halted--he crashed in his hotel room on the couch after he missed his flight, then just ended up staying there for two days.

Freed shared this thought. "Barnaby Jack was really one of a kind, and, due to his wonderfully outlandish personality and his absolute brilliance as a security researcher I don’t think the industry will see anyone like him anytime soon. This is truly a major loss for everyone, and I imagine that DefCon and Black Hat next week in Las Vegas will likely be one giant, week-long wake for Barnaby--he had thousands of friends and admirers."

Dave Marcus, director and chief architect of threat research and threat intelligence for McAfee, spoke fondly of Barnaby Jack as well. He admired Jack because he always had a smile, and he was always willing to sit down and talk hacking with anyone. He was down to Earth, and didn't perceive himself as, nor act like an infosec prima donna.

Marcus also thinks Black Hat and DefCon will be a wake...of sorts. He says the information security community is filled with "extreme" personalities, and those extremes will probably show up in how friends and fans choose to honor Barnaby Jack. Expect more drinks to be raised than tears shed, and be prepared for a spike in ATM hacks.

Friends of Barnaby Jack have started a fund in his honor. The first $5,000 collected will go to Jack's family to help cover any immediate expenses. The rest will go into The Barnaby Jack HacKid Fund, which will be used to foster a safe, innovative, creative community for future inventors, explorers, makers, and hackers aged 5 to 17. The fund will honor the legacy of Barnaby Jack by continuing to educate and share the joy of hacking with others. 

There will be many a drink shared in Barnaby Jack's honor in Las Vegas next week, and probably more than a few tears shed. If you're in town, stop by the room he was scheduled to present in on Thursday to join others and celebrate his legacy. If you're not going to be in Las Vegas--or even if you are--contribute what you can to The Barnaby Jack HacKid Fund in his honor. 

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