Alan Paller, a prominent cybersecurity researcher, has died

Alan Paller, a prominent cybersecurity researcher, has died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 76. His wife confirmed the news to the Reuters news agency on Saturday. Paller, who would regularly…

Alan Paller, a prominent cybersecurity researcher, has died

Alan Paller, a prominent cybersecurity researcher, has died after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 76. His wife confirmed the news to the Reuters news agency on Saturday. Paller, who would regularly be interviewed by journalists on security issues and on technological trends, announced that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer in January.

News of Paller’s death broke in the week before the Summit on Healthcare Cybersecurity, which he was to be a keynote speaker at. The date marked his last public appearance. He did not attend any of the previous four conference sessions. Paller was known for his outspoken and forthright opinions, and his presence on the speaking program was a sign of respect for his activism. Paller will not be replaced.

Paller is credited with being one of the first to identify and study the digital phishing phenomenon, and he was an expert in criminal behavior. He helped members of the press around the world understand the cybersecurity landscape, explaining everything from Chinese hacking attacks to Chinese hackers using global computer systems for spying. Many called him an inspiration, and his staunch view toward cybersecurity stands out as a brand.

Paller was particularly vocal about the role that transparency and disclosure can play in protecting data in private companies and corporations, as he did frequently on CNN and elsewhere. In one notable example, Paller called out the Beer for Humanity campaign created by the Belgian brewer Warsteiner.

Turning the positive instead of the negative would be a true act of philosophy by Alan Paller. Bravo. We missed you. https://t.co/djOlmvwjuB — Kurt Opsahl (@kurtopsahl) March 17, 2019

In 2012, Paller endorsed an open letter that called on Facebook, Twitter, and Google to reveal the security measures in place against Russian interference in the 2016 election, a call that is particularly relevant to people concerned about social media platforms today.

“No large company can be expected to protect all its users’ accounts against all dangers,” Paller wrote in the letter. “We appreciate that Facebook, Google, and Twitter want to provide a platform for all types of expression, without discrimination. We recognize, however, that these companies lack the resources to defend everyone equally against all possible threats. The responsibility of effective defense therefore has to lie with the individual.”

This principle is especially relevant in light of the myriad of data breaches that occurred during the 2017 election, which resulted in the loss of personal information for millions of Americans, and the Cambridge Analytica data breach that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

Paller also reportedly influenced the rise of Edward Snowden in the security research world. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who helped leak classified information about America’s surveillance activities, recalled that in the same year Paller worked with him on discovering how hackers exploited the method that was used to steal the millions of DNC documents. Paller told Snowden that he wanted him to create a website where people could document their own hacking attempts. The idea eventually became the site Scrypt, which sold off to Intel.

Paller is survived by his wife, Milena, who was his writing partner since 1979. She said in a joint statement, “[Paller] was a wise and courageous person, and his work will continue to make the world a better place.”

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