Rambling, thoughts and profundities on the subject of security and privacy in Web 2.0 and in particular Virtual Universes technologies. Occasionally I might diverge at bit.


Surprised and Confused

So, some friends have expressed surprise and confusion at my recent career changes, and all that is good as surprises and confusing events are good for the creative juices. But given that the times we live in are interesting and getting even more interesting each day, it is time to reign in the confusion a bit.
Long, long time ago, after dorking around at university, a few smaller jobs and my own company for a while, I joined IBM Research in Hawthorne, New York. Specifically, I joined the IBM AntiVirus team led by Steve R. White (get him confused with any of the other Steve Whites, and you're dead). That was fun, and lasted until Symantec bought us (or something like that) in 1998. So, I thought I'd transfer to IBM Research in Zürich (actually Rüschlikon), Switzerland to work on intrusion detection stuff (for instance Exorist) under Marc Dacier (and later Andreas Wespi) and to finish my PhD on Malware and Intrusion Detection.
By the time I finished said PhD, IBM had decided they weren't that interested in IDS after all. Of course, they up and bought ISS a year later, but who said a company has to be consistent? Anyway, I got more and more involved with compliance and security models. Interesting stuff. Yawn. No actually, it wasn't that bad and it all culminated with the design of the Data Centric Security Model, in which I was instrumental. Everyone was so impressed with the idea that they did the only thing logical: canceled the funding of the project after 1.5 years. Just in case you think I am being sarcastic, I'm not. This is a tried and proven method of finding out how important an idea is: cut the funding and see how much the researchers fight to get it done anyway. So, I left, but not because I didn't believe in the DCS model. BTW, I should point out that I can only encourage people to join IBM Research if they can (and if they are actually hiring). It was initially the most humiliating experience of my life to be around all these great minds, matched only by my attempt to improve my martial arts by joining a Chinese Opera company in Xi'an. Without any knowledge of the Chinese language. Just like with the martial arts, I thought I was pretty good before I joined IBM Research. Enough said.
I left IBM Research for a variety of personal reasons. One, though not the main one, was that I was beginning to think SOA was a good idea after all, at which point I knew I'd been there too long. So, I joined John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY as an associate professor. I'm now convinced that teaching actually is my vocation, but it became clear to me last Spring that I just couldn't afford it. It was also clear (at least to me) that the US was headed into a bad recession and that there would be no easy way of compensating for the subsistence-level pay that I was getting. Landing consultancy work was going to be difficult and I found out that (quite logically really) antivirus and other security companies like to do their research in-house. So that didn't work out very well.
Meanwhile, the really big reason for leaving Switzerland disappeared. Poof. So, I contacted a headhunter in Zürich and nearly landed an very interesting sounding job as research lead. Nearly. Which means not. I had already been talking to Trend Micro and decided to fall back on their offer to join their Advanced Threat Research team. So far, I am very happy with that decision. It is a very interesting and competent team under Erik Wu's leadership. There is a lot to like about Trend. They are fiscally conservative, which normally would be an irritation, but now seems like a good thing. The CEO, Eva Chen, is very technical, so you don't have to water things down to an meaningless elevator pitch. The work I am doing is bringing together a lot of thinking I've been doing recently about semantic technologies applied to security as well as massive computational architectures. They have one of the largest Hadoop/Hbase installations while I had been dabbling with Erlang/Mnesia for very similar things.
Unfortunately, the latest career move didn't result in a physical move towards Switzerland (or even Germany). The group is actually in Cupertino, California, which would be a nice place to go to as a geek, but I'm not sure if it is the right thing for my family. However, I'm not the only team member working remotely, so perhaps this will work out well. That would be nice. I've had the luck of always doing something I enjoy, but any given job change could land me with something I would not be so keen on, so I'd rather stick with what I've got, at least for now.

I'll keep you posted. Or confused. Whichever seems best at the moment.

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