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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

''Friendship supercedes business and business supercedes the industry''

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Sunday, 30 January 2005

VMYTHS LAUNCHED THE new "Whisper" Update for those who need a bigger picture of the computer security industrial complex. Part Drudge Report, part The Smoking Gun, and part Think Secret, "Whisper" collects and disseminates insider details about the industry behind computer security.

Our "Whisper" Update ruffled feathers and raised quite a few eyebrows. I received a number of emails reminding me of the industry's motto:

Friendship supercedes business and
business supercedes the industry

All cartels (legal or otherwise) enforce this motto. The computer security industry has cartels within it and I don't make this claim lightly. If you want to be an insider, you must make certain friends. You must pledge yourself to certain fraternities. You must keep certain secrets.

Now, I want to make this clear: nobody threatened or cajoled me in an email. They merely reminded me of the computer security industry's motto. Some experts touted their admiration for it while others simply acknowledged it as a fact of life.

Our "Whisper" Update reeks of controversy because it follows a different motto — one found in the Historian's Creed:

Knowledge supercedes friendship

Historians document the facts. Insiders know the facts will expose an industry's true persona and they want to control their public image. If you're not in a clique, then you aren't supposed to know what really goes on behind closed doors. The industry parcels out only the information they deem necessary. And they usually filter it down to the masses via the media.

Computer security wasn't the first industry to do this. Nor will it be the last. Hollywood presents itself as one of the most blatant examples — an industry that, for its first few decades, controlled every single aspect of its public image.

THE CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED glamour in Hollywood did much to hide brutal corporate empires that ruled the movie industry with an iron fist. There were no "movie critics" in the old days, just movie reviewers.

Friend­ships cor­rode in­de­pen­dence. Now you know why I pay for all of my VIP tours — and why I go out of my way to annoy in­si­ders at com­pu­ter secu­rity conferences.

If someone's independence threatened to scratch the industry's façade, he or she was whisked off to Tinseltown and given every opportunity to develop friendships. Why? Because friendships corrode independence.

This mentality pervades Hollywood, Washington, the mafia (!), and the computer security industry. You become friends with one of the insiders; you forge more friendships; you link up with one of the divas; and finally you become an insider yourself. Keep it up, show your loyalty, and you might someday land a job inside the computer security industry. Who knows? You could be tomorrow's diva if you play your cards right.

Play your cards wrong ... and "you'll never work in this town again."

A friendship is like an ace in the hole. When the stakes are high and you get dealt a poor hand, that friend may be the only thing standing between you and a front-page news story.

Mind you, there is no real conspiracy to corrupt anyone's independence. It's just a pervasive tactic used in every cartel. They want to protect a façade, nothing more. Ah, but I digress...

As this industry began to mature, some of the biggest computer security users realized they'd need to infiltrate the cliques. "Knowledge is power" and they wanted to know what really goes on. Firms like Boeing and Wells Fargo cultivated friendships within the computer security industry, and I believe it gives them an advantage over their own competitors.

Yet nearly all infiltrators will eventually obey the cartel's motto. To quote an old colleague: "you become the role you play." At some point an infiltrator will make an unconscious decision to protect friends first, employer second, industry third (not their employer's industry). It happens all the time in every cartel: friendships corrode independence. Undercover FBI agents receive special training and constant reminders to keep it from happening to them!

"But Rob, where do computer security users fit into the cartel's motto?" Good question! In all of the recent emails I received, no one mentioned anything about the users. We must assume insiders will protect users fourth — right after friends, employers, and the computer security industry.

Now you know why our "Whisper" Update reeks of controversy. The computer security cartels don't want knowledge to supercede friendships.

Special poll: Which motto should the Vmyths "Whisper" Update follow?

Friendship supercedes business and business supercedes the industry
Knowledge supercedes friendship

(voting ended 2/27/05)
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AT THIS POINT you may ask: "why do you charge for the 'Whisper' Update?"

Answer: Vmyths cofounder Eric Robichaud manages our marketing. He believes the corporate world will pay for intelligence on the industry behind computer security. It may be a niche market but it does have value. Robichaud priced "Whisper" with this in mind.

But then you may ask: "why did you go along with Robichaud's decision?"

Answer: I told Robichaud (in colorful language) to keep all of the income from "Whisper." I'm just tired of turning down corporate users in France & India who want to inspect sensitive documents and emails. I think they deserve to see what Vmyths obtains from confidential sources. "Whisper" gives us a way to satisfy them and anybody else who cares about the industry behind computer security.

[second edition]