Hemanshu Nigam: Mr. Safety for MySpace
Can CSO Hemanshu Nigam make MySpace a safe neighborhood, without also making it an empty one?
March 01, 2007 — CSO — It was late August, and depending on whom you asked, MySpace was either a Web 2.0 prophet or the devil gone digital. While the business world was reading about the social networking site's $900 million deal with Google, its expansion into Australia and its mention on Time's list of the 50 coolest websites, the security community was riveted by a different set of headlines. "Two teens arrested in MySpace hack," read one. "Three teens accused of sexually assaulting girl they met on MySpace.com," read another. A third: "Man accused of raping MySpace date."
At a conference in Dallas, Hemanshu Nigam had to address an audience focused on the latter set of headlines. And he was about to find out how public a stage he had stepped onto by taking the job as chief security officer of MySpace, the News Corporation entity on which owner Rupert Murdoch is staking his plans for a digital future. An hour before Nigam's first session, to be given at the annual Crimes Against Children conference, he and a staff member headed to the conference room at the Hilton to set up. They found a line outside the door.
"We asked somebody in line, Are you waiting for something?" recalls Nigam, who is also CSO for all of Fox Interactive Media. "And they said, Yeah, for the MySpace training. As soon as the doors opened, people kept coming, and they kept coming, and they kept coming. All of a sudden you had 4 feet by 6 feet of walking space, and all the way up to that you had people sitting on the floor. All the walls had people standing. It was crawling room only."
People were turned away. Everyone wanted to hear how MySpace could assist law enforcement with criminal investigations.
Nigam, a 42-year-old born in India and raised in Connecticut, took the stage, where he spoke both with the command of a seasoned federal prosecutor of child crimes and the empathy of a father of four. He described MySpace's 24-hour hotline for law enforcement, its track record of helping to find teenage runaways as well as rapists, and its efforts to get IP addresses and other crucial information to officers as quickly as possible. His words seemed to have their desired effect: Afterward, more than 90 percent of those assembled gave his talk a positive rating.
"He seems to be forthcoming in saying, We know there are issues that need to be addressed, and we are addressing them," conference organizer Larry Robbins says. "I didn't get the impression that he was trying to sweep something under the rug."