Remembering Chris Christensen

The long-time cybersecurity analyst is gone but not forgotten.

Chris Christiansen
IDC

Last Friday, former IDC analyst, Chris Christensen, passed away.  I learned this sad news from my colleague John Grady who worked with Chris for many years.  Another colleague, Christina Richmond, also worked with and for Chris at IDC.  Christina and I consoled each other this morning, sharing fun stories about Chris that made us smile a bit through our sadness.

Unlike my colleagues and lots of other people I know in the industry, I never worked with or for Chris, but we often found ourselves in the same places — the RSA conference, Black Hat, CiscoLive, etc. 

We first met many years ago in Moscow of all places.  As cybersecurity analysts, we were there for a series of meetings and events with Kaspersky Lab.  The flight to Moscow from Boston is a rather tedious 11 hours or so, with a stopover in NYC before an overnight red eye flight to Russia.  After this grueling trip, most people in our party went right to the hotel for a power nap, but not Chris.  In the hotel lobby, Chris looked at the crowd of tired Americans and said something like, “we’re 2 blocks from Red Square and we don’t have any meetings until this evening.  I’m going for a walk, who wants to join me?" 

Chris’s enthusiasm woke me from my exhaustion.  We walked around for a few hours with gusto, touring Red Square, an area that had always been presented to us as enemy territory.  The sheer wonder and delight of this rather exotic experience certainly made us forget how tired we were.  It was pretty much like this the rest of the time in Moscow, whether we were touring the Kremlin or walking the city streets at 2 AM.  Chris and I were either jawboning about cybersecurity or in awe of a place and experience we never thought we would have. 

Yup, Chris was energetic and fun, but he was also one of the sharpest minds in cybersecurity.  He continuously asked pointed questions at events, ever curious, thoughtful, and willing to call BS.  Although we worked at competitive analyst firms, we always found time to hang out together at events.  We would share thoughts about a cyberattack pattern, what we’d heard from CISO conversations, or whether a vendor was the real deal or nothing but hype.  Now, usually there were a few drinks involved, but this only made those discussions informative and entertaining.  I cherished them. 

I used to joke when I saw him, calling him one of the “smartest guys in cybersecurity.”  He would blush, laugh, and push right back at me, but our banter wasn’t all kidding around — I really respected his knowledge around our complex and ever-changing cybersecurity world.  Even though the tenor of our conversation was comedic, I always learned something when I talked to Chris.

Chris retired a few years ago and seemed very happy; he remained somewhat active in infosec, working now and then for Judith Hurwitz, another long-time analyst.  I didn’t see Chris as often at industry events, but we kept in touch.  I recently moved a few towns away from Chris.  The last time we communicated, we talked about getting together for coffee or perhaps driving up North for skiing, another passion we shared.  Regrettably, we never got a chance to follow through.

A few years ago, the cybersecurity community lost another wonderful soul, Raimund Genes, CTO at Trend Micro.  Like Chris, Raimund was the whole package — technically astute, charismatic, and fun as could be.  Chris, Raimund, and I were often the three amigos, sharing cybersecurity stories over libations and laughs.  If there’s a cybersecurity heaven, Raimund welcomed Chris on Friday, with an exotic cocktail, a wide grin, and unbridled fervor. 

Rest in peace Chris Christensen, your wisdom and charm will be forever missed.

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