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.

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Companies: ironnet cybersecurity

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Comments on “Ex-NSA Boss Defends Patenting His Totally Brand New, Not Developed On Gov't Time, Patent-Pending Cybersecurity Brilliance”

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36 Comments
Anon says:

Actually...

My stepbrother did retire as a brain surgeon from the military (close to age 65 with a pension), and according to my nephew, he got a $500,000 signing bonus when he started working with a private clinic.

But the difference is, he has a demonstrated track record at what he does, he produced demonstrable results before and after he retired, and (AFAIK) the clientele in his private clinic in general have zero connection with his prior work for the US military.

I have trouble imagining an administrative level executive being a technical whiz at anything. My general experience was the type who enjoyed technical work usually weren’t the sort who wanted to be or were equipped to be administrators. A few years being an executive usually ensured you were totally removed from current tech.

BAALZAKK (profile) says:

Re: Actually...

Your stepbrother doesn’t need to prove his worth: no one becomes a brain surgeon for any length of time without at least 10 years of school, and I’m assuming LOTS of work experience with him being in the military. Army guys tend to get pieces of metal lodged in their skulls at an alarming rate…lol. This guy is just a typical Washington, D.C. professional bullshitter con artist.
The whole city is packed with them, good place for a tsunami to hit in my estimation.

Keith Alexander says:

(Parody)

“actually, the number is now being lowered to $600k”

No no no, I’m actually still worth well over a million dollars a month. This $600K figure is merely a promotional. but you must act now!!! I’ll even throw in some spyware (strikethrough) some extra hardware and anti-virus software written by the NSA (strikethrough) that will protect your systems even more.

Anonymous Coward says:

This and other related articles strongly suggest that Alexander is an inventor or co-inventor of certain techniques/methods. I have perused all links and found nothing other than a reference to technology being provided by an unidentified third party.

Do you have a cite to any article where Alexander unequivocally states that he is an inventor or co-inventor of whatever techniques his company says it will be using?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Patent Applications

I am just drooling with anticipation of the coverage the actual patent applications are gonna get. I mean there’s gonna be 9 or 10 of them. All open and available for viewing, analysis and ridicule, and ridicule, and ridicule.

Is there some sort of scoring system or scale for how far out of the park the Patent Office misses on prior art or obviousness, or those little words ‘on a computer’ or ‘on the Internet’ that are now patently useless?

Whoever says:

Not Alexander's ideas

His firm is developing as many as 10 patents, he said, and has secured contracts with three clients he declines to name. The technological innovations in the new patents came from an unidentified partner,

The ideas behind the patents are not his. Perhaps the partner is the same data analysis firm that Alexander employed without any measurable success while at the NSA?

Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile) says:

Those Monkeys have been busy!!!

The infinite monkey theorem means he may have used COCO the gorilla to develop this massively miraculous technology! Or the primate is just using him to get his banana fix and promised the technology is on it’s way…either way Keith has a monkey on his back and they like to throw poop so I’d keep my distance.

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