Many years ago, I had the great pleasure of working with John De Haven. John passed away some years back, but his words of wisdom remain with me. John was officially a genius. A member of Mensa, he had experience in real life or death programming while stationed on a US Navy aircraft carrier fixing software that managed the air defense systems of the planes and designing missile targeting software. He quit because he hated what the planes were doing.
Later he lived on the edge of a collapsed volcano programming for NASA. And still later, he invented and wrote the cleverest anti-virus software that was available at that time. That was when I met him, and we sold his software together.
To give you an idea of John’s influence and the kind of network he operated in; we were working late one night, and the phone rang (this was before mobile phones), and an American voice asked to speak to John. After he finished, I asked him who it was, John answered, “Oh that was Phil. He just wanted some advice about the algorithm for PGP.” I didn’t think much about it then but later realized he was talking about Philip R. “Phil” Zimmermann, Jr. the creator of PGP.
John had some “mantras” that have stood the test of time. One in particular I like is, “Whatever boots the machine, owns the machine.”
Another, “The only safe machine, is a totally disconnected machine.”
And regarding computer security in general, “Paranoia is not just the correct attitude, it is the prudent attitude.”
John would have loved to see what has happened in the years since he passed (he’d also be right at the front of it for sure); and one other thing – another John mantra for CSO’s. “Never think it cannot or will not happen – the day will come, it always does.”