Ex-NSA Boss Defends Patenting His Totally Brand New, Not Developed On Gov't Time, Patent-Pending Cybersecurity Brilliance
from the yeah-that's-believable dept
We recently wrote about Keith Alexander claiming that he’s worth as much as $1 million a month (actually, the number is now being lowered to $600k) because he’s magically come up with a totally brand new anti-hacking concept that will have many patents. As we noted, this story raised all sorts of questions. First, if he had such a brilliant idea to stop hackers, why didn’t he use it back when he was in charge of the NSA and the US Cyber Command? His answer to that was that he magically came up with it after he left office in March. Of course, if that’s the case, it’s difficult to see how it can be worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars per month because it’s a totally untested and totally brand new idea. He can’t both be claiming that his years of NSA experience make it worthwhile and that this idea has nothing to do with his work at the NSA — but he seems to be doing exactly that.
Either way, he’s given an interview to the Associated Press in which he tries (and fails) to defend himself concerning the new operation, IronNet Cybersecurity:
“If I retired from the Army as a brain surgeon, wouldn’t it be OK for me to go into private practice and make money doing brain surgery?” he asked. “I’m a cyber guy. Can’t I go to work and do cyber stuff?”
The “brain surgery” analogy is not even close to be analogous. This is more like he was the administrator of an army hospital who has now retired and says, despite never having personally done a brain surgery, he’s now invented a miraculous new way to do brain surgeries so powerful people have only dreamed of them before. Naturally, most people should be skeptical of such claims.
And, of course, most actual cybersecurity folks I know don’t consider Alexander to really be a “cyber guy.” He’s not. Yes, he managed various groups that could hack into systems, but that doesn’t make him any sort of expert on cybersecurity. Just the fact that he’s diving into the murky waters of “behavioral modeling” as his anti-hacking technique should raise some flags. It’s an area that has been talked about a lot, but solutions haven’t been any good at all.
Is it possible that Alexander has broken through on an idea that has stumped many people who actually do spend all their time hacking away at systems, looking for security holes and how to fix them? Sure. It’s possible, but it’s improbable. And the claims by themselves should require significant proof before they’re taken seriously. As we’ve said for years, ideas are one thing. Execution is another, and Alexander has shown no evidence that his solution is actually any good. So why are companies paying him upwards of six figures a month? Good question. It seems unlikely that they truly believe he has found the holy anti-hacking grail. It seems more likely that they like his government connections.