Revolving Door Links Cybersecurity Firms and Spy Agencies

Amanda Stewart took the stage at last week’s RSA cybersecurity conference with her presentation stored on a silver USB drive that hung from a delicate necklace. In heels and an elegant black and white dress, she seemed like an unlikely soldier in the war against cybercrime–until she unleashed a highly technical talk on the challenges posed by DLL side-loading, a hard-to-spot tactic used by sophisticated attackers.

Ms. Stewart’s presentation grew from her work as a malware research engineer at FireEye, the Silicon Valley company that’s among the leaders in the suddenly red-hot cybersecurity business. “We think of her as one of our Navy SEALS,” says Rob Rachwald, FireEye’s senior director of market research.

That’s not just hyperbole: Before Ms. Stewart became a FireEye SEAL, she was a foot soldier for the government, reverse engineering malware and tracking hackers on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Cyber Crime Center.

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According to Alan Paller, head of cybersecurity research and education center the SANS Institute, the situation has not improved. “People don’t like to say it aloud, but the tanks of the next war will be the people with the skills to win or lose battles in cyberspace,” says Mr. Paller. “Producing them should be part of the national defense strategy.”


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“There are brilliant graduates coming from MIT and Stanford, but they tend to be young, optimistic and insufficiently paranoid. The people who think the way we need them to think are coming out of the government.”