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Conspiracy Theory: Michael Lynn Negotiates Corner Office, Reserved Parking Space With Juniper

Anyone predicting that Michael Lynn did severe damage to his career might want to retract those statements now that the former ISS researcher and current Cisco nemesis has landed at Juniper Networks. Although it's unclear what Lynn's role is or how long he's been with Cisco's biggest rival, I'm sure that conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one. Lynn, you'll remember if you weren't on Mars this summer, has become infamo
Anyone predicting that Michael Lynn did severe damage to his career might want to retract those statements now that the former ISS researcher and current Cisco nemesis has landed at Juniper Networks. Although it's unclear what Lynn's role is or how long he's been with Cisco's biggest rival, I'm sure that conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one. Lynn, you'll remember if you weren't on Mars this summer, has become infamous for a Black Hat presentation during which he proved what most savvy network administrators already suspected: Cisco's IOS had a serious flaw that could let hackers not just take down a Cisco switch or router but also hijack networking equipment and execute code. Lynn's slideshow heroics became the centerpiece of this week's InformationWeek cover story, which quickly took on a life of its own as I dug in.For the record, I e-mailed Michael Lynn a couple of times during the reporting of my Cisco network security story. (Michael, if you're reading this...call me.) Needless to say, he either declined my invitation to go on the record, or his legal troubles with Cisco and ISS prevented him from commenting. Lynn's lawyer, Jennifer Granick, was nice enough to fill me in on the status of Lynn's case and the implications of Lynn's actions on network security.

No need to look far to see the impact of Lynn's presentation. Cisco last week issued a security alert and patch for a critical "heap-overflow" vulnerability in its Internetwork Operating System (IOS) that could have allowed hackers to crash or take control of the routers and switches that form the backbone of the Internet and enterprise networks. Widespread awareness of this potential exploit stems from the July Black Hat conference, where Lynn demonstrated that vulnerabilities to a certain version of IOS running in IPv6 environments could be exploited to take over--rather than simply shut down--Cisco routers and switches.

What really gets me though is that I actually sat down with Juniper at InformationWeek's offices while I was researching my story. We made the usual small talk about the mild October weather, chatted about the company's upcoming Infranet Controller appliances and Infranet Agent software, and discussed Cisco's approach to loading IOS with security features while Juniper offloads much of its perimeter security responsibilities to network appliances. If only I hadn't given up on building that time machine when I was in junior high school! Then I would have known to drop a verbal WMD on them by asking: "So, I hear you're interviewing Michael Lynn for a position at Juniper. Will he be getting a company car?" Of course, I would also have used my new powers to keep from drafting Pittsburgh's Deuce Staley as the starting running back for my fantasy football team. Alas.

Let's not lose sight of what's really important: my team might still make the playoffs and the mind of Michael Lynn will be put to good use by the only company with a legitimate shot at challenging Cisco for networking equipment supremacy. After all of the time and effort Cisco spent trying to shut down Lynn's Black Hat presentation, you couldn't have written a more compelling epilogue. But let's also give credit to Cisco. The company has responded to this summer's wakeup call and fixed the vulnerabilities in question.

The issue of vulnerability disclosure is one I expect to address in the coming months, so please weigh in with your thoughts. Please also take a minute to respond with your perspective on Juniper's hiring of Lynn. Was this a shrewd move by a vendor on its way up in the networking world, or was it a cheap shot at Cisco, given all of the time Lynn spent deconstructing and re-engineering IOS code with Cisco's blessing?

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