March has been a rough month for the Cyber Security community.
On March 2, Howard Schmidt, one of the industry’s first CISOs (if not the first) and former cyber security advisor for two presidents passed away from cancer.
If that wasn’t bad enough, on March 15 - the Ides of March - we lost Becky Bace - a much beloved security strategist, technologist, academic, researcher, author, connector-of-people, mentor, raconteur and self-defined Infidel. She was known as the “Den Mother of Information Security” and loved by many.
Talk about a one-two punch.
I met both of them right around the same time. I was the external PR person for several Trident Capital companies - Sygate, TriCipher, Thor, AirTight and KSR (now Neohapsis).
Howard was on the board of Sygate (and TriCipher?? I forget...). Becky did technical due diligence for Trident, and was hands-on with all of the ones I worked with. I used both of them as spokespeople, regularly, which is how I got to know them.
Collectively, they played a major role in ushering in a generation of cyber security professionals. Fittingly, Howard’s life and times warranted a New York Times story and several loving trade press articles. In many ways, he was the face of the Cyber security profession - its ambassador to the world at large. But Becky…she was its heart.
Becky was as seminal a presence as Howard, but in a different way. If the cyber security industry was a car (Becky always did like analogies…), Howard was the headlights, illuminating the way forward. Becky - a technologist, academic, teacher, and nurturer at heart - was the chassis, built by design to bring people along for the ride, safely.
Becky was undeniably brilliant. She was funkier than Howard, maybe even slightly kooky, but in the very best way. I mean, how many Japanese people do you know that speak with a(n American) Southern twang?
When I met Becky I was just getting my footing in the PR world and had naturally gravitated towards cyber security (then called “infosec”) as an area of expertise. Having entered the workforce relatively late - after a detour down what most might consider an unconventional path - I felt a kinship with hacker-types. I was especially drawn to those whose contributions were valued enough to where any potential non-conformity was accepted.
Becky for me was living proof that I could excel professionally without having to posture or pretend to be anything I wasn't. That was news to me at the time, and I was overjoyed.
I worked more closely with her for longer than I did with Howard, plus for a while we lived close proximity of each other (I lived in downtown San Jose, she and Terri lived in the “Republic of Scotts Valley”). It was during that time that I really got to know her. And to know Becky is to love her.
That’s why the news of her passing is such a gut punch. Like my friend Jon Brody said when he texted me about her passing, “this one hurts.”
And the stories on Becky are beginning to post – in SC Mag, in CSO, and her partner Terri is posting personal reflections and memories of Becky at infidel.net.
Beware the Ides of March – someone important always seems to die on that day.
I’ll miss you Becky. Rest in Peace.