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Getting along: Hackers vs. CSOs

Jan 28, 20112 mins
Data and Information Security

My conversation with TATA Communications CSO Adam Rice took place in the middle of a ShmooCon crowd. So I had to ask about the disconnect I sometimes see between the hacker and CSO crowds.

I’ve written before about what I sometimes see as a disconnect between the two camps. The hackers look and talk like rock stars and in many ways they are. The CSO crowd is much more reserved.

Last year, someone I know who is more accustomed to the CSO crowd went to Black Hat. He came back and said something like, “Man, those people are different.” He didn’t feel like he walked away from the experience with anything useful.

Now this isn’t always the case. I know several folks from both crowds who work well together. I simply saw a standoffish relationship in other quarters and thought I should mention it.

Anyway, I had a razor-sharp CSO sitting in front of me, so I had to ask what he thought of the ShmooCon crowd hanging out all around us.

Does he look at them and shake his head in puzzlement?


He said he encourages the hacker role in his organization. They break stuff so Rice’s team can make things more ironclad. The dress code of many hackers doesn’t bother him, either. That’s their uniform, he said.

As long as they play by the company rules, it’s all good.

“There is a certain freelancer mindset that comes with the hacker persona,” he said. “If you decide to try a brute-force technique out because you read about it somewhere,” you’re going to get in trouble.

“Everyone has to follow corporate policy,” he said.

–Bill Brenner