A brief history of Alan Paller, cybersecurity expert and cybersecurity pioneer

Alan Paller, a former NSA analyst, and founder of the cybersecurity firm SpiderOak, was known for questioning government security on his National Public Radio and PBS shows Counterpoint and Security Clearance. After leaving the government he had a role on HBO’s hit show Silicon Valley, giving a voice to younger professionals who work at companies like Google and Microsoft. He authored the book Choose Security, which urges people to practice cyber security. Following his death in 2016 at the age of 76, BBC reported Paller had retired in 2010.

“He was one of the world’s great minds in cybersecurity,” said Darthexus founder Rich Fredericks, who founded SpiderOak with Paller in 2002. “The company he co-founded was a huge success and he’s sure to be missed.”

When Paller died in 2016, his friends and employees marked the moment with what he described as “sort of a bazaar of memories.”

“The outpouring of generosity, particularly for me,” Paller wrote on his blog. “Of the hundreds of visits and dozens of messages that I received from well-wishers, the comments at the end of one article were also revealing. Here were a few snippets from that great response.”

Paller’s tweet in November about the U.S. decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal may be his final words before he passed away.

“The key is that once you recognize you are on a dangerous path, you must be aware of those things you can change, or one day you will have to change yourself,” Paller wrote. “No matter how very important or powerful you are, you can never be indispensable, or invincible.”

On Monday, Paller’s former colleagues shared memories of him on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a video remembering him that can be seen below.

R.I.P Alan “Wainwright” Paller. Alan has left the building in a quiet, understated manner. I like his take on Nietzsche. His definition of loss.. pic.twitter.com/r1ixZBmPYZ — Sharon Creech (@sharonccreech) February 12, 2018

May Alan Paller rest in peace. My dear friend who taught me so much about cybersecurity. True to form, he always had an awkward silence in his body. And never changed. pic.twitter.com/kJfajhnpWt — Wendy Alexander (@spaceoblediant) February 12, 2018

I have often reflected on Alan Paller’s death. He was living his life exactly as he would want. He was speaking about the danger of cyber attacks, telling the truth. “Honesty has consequences, and that is your life.” pic.twitter.com/SCHkNRAtwk — Chris Finan (@chrisfinan) February 12, 2018

The late Alan Paller has, for those in the cybersecurity community, forever been synonymous with excellence. Sadly the good guy didn’t see the rest of his life, and we, as a whole, will always be limited because he didn’t. So show your respect Alan Paller. pic.twitter.com/oyfIrO43mN — Colm Ó Riordáin (@Colm_ORI) February 12, 2018

Read the full story at NPR and the New York Times.


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