Prominent cryptographer and author Bruce Schneier, who left BT last month after a long tenure there, will move to Co3 Systems, a Boston-area incident response management startup where he'll serve as chief technology officer.
Schneier's "security futurologist" position at BT was the result of BT's 2006 acquisition of Counterpane Internet Security, which Schneier helped found in the late 1990s. News of the departure was leaked a month ago, creating a flurry of speculation about whether it was a result of his outspokenness about the monitoring of various communications channels undertaken by both the NSA and Britain's equivalent agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
Schneier wrote on his blog that his leaving had "nothing to do with the NSA or GCHQ. No, BT wasn't always happy with my writings on the topic, but it knew that I am an independent thinker and didn't try to muzzle me in any way." A BT press statement on the subject claimed rather flatly that "it has nothing to do with his recent blogs."
In addition to blogging critically about NSA surveillance, Schneier worked in recent months to assist Britain's The Guardian newspaper to analyze documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The paper has reported, among other significant revelations, that BT was among several firms secretly collaborating with GCHQ. Since neither BT nor Schneier have commented directly on this report, it's unclear whether Schneier directly encountered information on BT in his Snowden-related work.
"It was time for a change, and it's good to be back in a startup," Schneier said in an interview with SearchSecurity this week, noting that the new company focuses on incident response management and that "this really fits with what I did at Counterpane, and it's something I would have done if BT didn't buy us."
Better management of incident response efforts is important, he said, for two reasons: "One, attacks are getting more sophisticated. The Target attack was pretty darned sophisticated. So incident response has to get more sophisticated, and you have to be able to coordinate that in ways that are useful. Two, the legal environment has gotten more dangerous. Between all the regulations you have to follow and all the litigation that comes after a massive breach, the audit trail of what you did is really important.
"The more you can automate it, the better you're going to do," Schneier added. "If you're in crisis mode, the last thing you want is for someone to forget to do something that they have to do. If the system is doing the tasking and the following up and the coordination, you know that someone got the message to do it; you know that the response came that they did it. And the system knows what you legally have to do, worldwide."
Schneier's new post, he said, won't interfere with his outspoken blogging: "This job doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing about everything I write about."