Computer Security Institute's leader responds to Abagnale flap

Chris Keating defends his company's decision to include the man made famous for frauding so many for so long.

The director of the Computer Security Institute responds to the controversy surrounding Frank Abagnale's inclusion in this fall's CSI conference speaker lineup. Abagnale is best known as the conman in the book and film titled "Catch Me If You Can." He has worked in the document security field since shortly after his release from prison more than 30 years ago. Some other CSI speakers, including executive consultant Bill Murray and former U.S. cybersecurity czar Howard Schmidt, disagreed with the reformed ID thief's inclusion and withdrew from participating.

Here is his statement:

Mr. Murray and Mr. Schmidt are right to worry about sending the wrong signals when it comes to ethics and information security. But a speaking slot at a leading conference like CSI's does not mean the industry is holding them up as an example. Rather, a speaking slot is an opportunity to contribute to the discussions of the security industry, where not everyone is in agreement on all issues.

The debate over what to make of a person's prior criminal record is a case in point. I don't think everyone in the industry agrees that non-computer crimes committed as a teenager, particularly when followed by serving one's time in prison and then by thirty years of service aiding law enforcement, disqualifies a person from having something to say to current security professionals.

In my earlier comment, I didn't mean to suggest that no one objected to his appearance. As noted, two speakers out of approximately 130 dropped out. Another speaker told me he disagreed with our decision, but admitted he enjoyed the speech, and did not think it appropriate to cancel his own speaking appearance.

Also, as always, we did consult with security experts, including former keynote speakers, on the decision to invite Abagnale.

Chris Keating
Director, Computer Security Institute

This was last published in December 2004

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