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Bruce Schneier Departs BT For Startup Co3 Systems

Schneier says new gig at incident response management vendor a natural progression for him

Famed security expert Bruce Schneier has left BT and is now CTO of incident response (IR) management startup Co3 Systems.

Schneier, who previously had served on Co3 Systems' advisory board and has helped shape the look and feel of the software-as-a-service firm's architecture, says the time had come for him to make a change and leave BT. He had been the security futurologist for BT since it purchased his network monitoring services firm Counterpane Internet Security in October 2006.

Word that Schneier was leaving BT leaked publicly last month, and speculation arose that it had to do with his outspoken criticism of surveillance by the NSA and Britain's GCHQ.

But Schneier says BT never tried to censor his high-profile analysis of the Snowden leaks. "BT never tried to force me to toe the party line. And while my opinions on the NSA might not have been the same as their opinions, they never once stopped me from saying or publishing something," Schneier told Dark Reading in an interview. "Independent thinking was one of the things BT valued of me."

He says the timing was right for him to try something new, and Cambridge, Mass.-based Co3 was "the cool 'something new' that I found." His new role is mainly as "an external-facing evangelist," he says.

The Guardian in August reported that BT was a major partner with the GCHQ in its surveillance programs, as were Vodafone and Verizon Business, providing the spy agency with passing information on their customers' phone calls, emails, and Facebook posts, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Schneier, who worked with former Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald to analyze the Snowden documents, concluded that the NSA in its controversial surveillance operations was breaking most encryption on the Internet, and that it was time for the Internet to retool its security architecture with "open protocols, open implementations, open systems -- these will be harder for the NSA to subvert," he wrote.

[Renowned security icon Bruce Schneier shares food for thought on security, fine dining, and disclosing and eating bugs. See Schneier On Schneier.]

Schneier says he was eager to return to the startup scene. "Being in a startup is fun. It's really fun in ways that being with a big company is not," Schneier says. "Being in a big company has advantages ... I was just about ready to swap back" to the startup model, he says.

Co3 offers a software-as-a-service platform for automating IR that assigns tasks, logs, tracks, and monitors elements of responding to an attack, including regulatory requirements. The platform replaces manual tracking via spreadsheets or other less coordinated, error-prone manual approaches today.

Schneier has close ties with John Bruce, Co3's CEO: The two worked together at Counterpane 15 years ago when Bruce was CMO and executive vice president of marketing there. Bruce said he is pleased that Schneier is joining Co3. "I've known Bruce for quite a while," he says. "What we represent is what he's been professing for the longest time ... you're going to get attacked at some point, so what do you do when you become subject to that?"

Bruce says Schneier's joining the firm is a validation of the company's SaaS offering. "What we're doing is equipping people with the tool to execute processes to efficiently grapple with [attacks]," he says. The platform provides a "playbook" for what to do when a breach occurs, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Co3.

Schneier says Co3 was the next logical step from Counterpane. "After detection comes response," he says. He describes Co3's platform as a social networking tool for IR. Co3's system assigns tasks and coordinates any regulatory requirements for disclosure, for example. It can be linked to threat intelligence feeds and to IR services a firm would employ in the event of a breach. "You get on, put your people on it, what their jobs are," for example, he says. "It's taking manual incident response and automating and documenting it.

"We don't change how incident response happens; we make sure it happens according to the way it's supposed to," he says. And it's an external site, so IR isn't performed on your network, which is a risky approach, he says.

Schneier says the security industry has invested a lot of money in prevention and detection of breaches. "There are response [providers] ... you can call in Mandiant, and they can parachute people in and make it better," for example, he says. But there's a lack of IR product investment in the industry today, he says.

"Everyone agrees in this post-breach society that you're breached, whether you know it or not," says Ted Julian, chief marketing officer at Co3 Systems. "So [incident] response is more important than ever."

Schneier is also a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, a program fellow at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and an Advisory Board Member of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He has authored 12 books, including "Applied Cryptography" and "Liars and Outliers," and his Schneier on Security blog is well-known in the industry.

Bruce Schneier

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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