Dan Geer Helping CIA, Enjoying 'Gee-Whiz' Moments
Security luminary Dan Geer talks with CSO about all the fun he's having as the new CISO of In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community. He also revisits the Microsoft monoculture debate that lead to his firing from @Stake five years ago.
By Bill Brenner
The firing actually helped cement Geer's status as a security luminary and has led to a wealth of opportunities, including a stint as president and chief scientist at Verdasys Inc. and his latest role as CISO for In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community - particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Geer - a member of the Athena Project at MIT during the creation of the widely-used Kerberos authentication protocol - recently sat down with CSO to discusses the "gee-whiz" moments he now enjoys as he gets a peek at some of the latest intelligence technology.
He also explains the goal behind his recently-released book, "The Economics and Strategies of Data Security," and revisits the monoculture debate, which he believes played a role in security improvements at Microsoft.
CSO: Last time we spoke, you were at Verdasys. Why the move to In-Q-Tel?
Dan Geer: The role I have is new, partly the classic job of CISO, and they have information that needs to be handled properly. Information security and digital identity management are important for this company and I was hired to help with that. I'm obviously on the technical side. So far, the gee-whiz fascination value is pretty high. I'm finding that the elements that are not my specialties are the most fascinating part of the job.
A ground cover that changes color when its roots touch land mine residue, so you can plant it and find land mines without having to use your water buffalo; what looks like a sheet of paper which is actually lit up, three times the efficiency of LEDs (light-emitting diode, a semiconductor diode that emits light when an electrical current is applied in the forward direction of the device) which is paper-thin and can be cut with a scissors; and the ability to extract power from the room you are in. Powering things without a power cord is of huge interest to commercial and intelligence entities.
I've also found that the nanotechnology world is full of fascinating things, and I've also seen a hand-held spectrometer that lets you tell what material you're looking at—a tool that came out of carpet recycling, of all things. In the carpet recycling business it's evidently a bad idea to melt down your polypropylene with your nylon. As obvious as that sounds, I had no idea. The spectrometer was invented so the recycling people could sort the shreds into the proper piles.