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Diversity Paper Author Speaks To eWeek About His Firing

Diversity Paper Author Speaks To eWeek About His Firing

by , 11:00 AM EDT, October 1st, 2003

Dan Geer coauthored a paper on computing diversity published by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Many in the IT industry considered it to be an industry shaking paper because it declared that computing environments of a single type, as are those consisting only of Microsoft Windows machines, are far more vulnerable to viral attacks than those environment that feature diversified platforms and operating systems.

Mr. Geer was the CTO of @stake Inc., a digital security company. 'Was' is the operative word because Mr. Geer was fired from his position at @stake immediately after the paper was published, presumably because of that published position on Microsoft, one of @stake's prime customers. Recently, Mr. Geer talked to eWeek about his dismissal. From the article 'Security Expert Geer Sounds Off on Dismissal:

Software diversity in the name of security is by no means a new idea, but Geer and the other authors are all very visible in the high-tech industry, especially within the security community, and their opinions carry a certain weight. However, Geer said Monday that the opinions in the paper were no more controversial or edgy than many of the things he's said in speeches, interviews and other papers during his time with @stake.

"People say that if he was surprised [by being fired], he's an idiot. Well, I was surprised in this sense: I do this kind of thing all the time," Geer said in an interview from his home. "My job was to be out in front far enough that a company the size of @stake could be at the front of an industry like this."

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., has used @stake's services for several years. Officials at @stake, in Cambridge, Mass., flatly deny any connection between this fact and Geer's firing and say that no one from Microsoft influenced their decision whatsoever.

But Geer isn't convinced. The company said Geer's last day as an employee was Tuesday, but the announcement wasn't made until Thursday, the day after the paper was published. Geer went on a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning and identified himself as an @stake employee and added that the opinions in the paper were his own and not the company's.

"The Venn diagram of facts doesn't intersect. The intersection of all of those statements is the null set," Geer said.

Mr. Geer talks more about the controversial paper he coauthored and his time at @stake Inc in the full article at eWeek.

The Mac Observer Spin:

What Mr. Geer and others penned was no so earth-shattering because of the ideas it contained; diversity in IT has been covered by TMO and many other media outlets, many times before. What makes Mr. Geer's document so important is that was coauthored by industry types, industry types with no small amount of clout. There's a big difference between journalists and columnists saying that dependence on Microsoft (or any other single platform) is bad, and big-time security honchos saying it.

That Mr. Geer was fired so close behind the publication of the paper is suspicious in the least, and should make a lot of people nervous about their own positions, especially in the current job market climate. Having a position that speaks strongly against an industry giant, such as Microsoft, could be detrimental to your paycheck, making the release of the CCIA paper all the more important because it says what many feel, but won't express because they have a mortgage payment to worry about.

Whether Microsoft had any direct involvement with Mr. Geer's dismissal is of little consequence. It is the appearance of heavy handedness by Big Redmond that makes this incident all the more worrisome.

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