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The top ten security heroes

Posted on 3 Dec 2009 at 14:35

Imagine the security nightmare if, when you typed in the web address of your bank, the DNS database translated this to a different IP address, while believing all the time it was the authentic one. Imagine what would happen if hackers could exploit this.

Kaminsky discovered just such a flaw, called DNS cache poisoning. Instead of taking the oft-trodden path of collecting kudos and announcing his find at a hacker convention, Kaminsky instead notified major DNS vendors, ISPs and internet technology companies, so they could work on a fix.

For months, security experts from around the world worked in incredible secrecy to snuff out the bug before hackers cottoned on. While he received an award for the Most Overhyped Security Vulnerability at the Black Hat convention in 2008, this DNS detective is a hero to many, including PC Pro.

6. Steve Linford

The history of spam is as long as it is deplorable. From the very first commercial spam sent by DEC marketer Gary Thuerk in 1978, through to today where upwards of 90% of email is junk.

Steve Linford decided in 1998 that enough was enough and fought back with the Spamhaus Project. This international non-profit organisation has a bold mission: to track spammers, provide protection for internet networks, lobby governments for antispam legislation and work with global law-enforcement agencies to pursue the spammers.

Security heroes

Spamhaus maintains the real-time spam-blocking database used by governments and military networks, as well as two-thirds of ISPs and some 1.4 billion email users around the world.

Spamhaus also publishes ROKSO, The Register Of Known Spam Operations, a database that collates evidence on the 100 most active spamming gangs and individuals around the world. Law enforcement uses it to target prosecutions.

Linford’s efforts to thwart the spammers have earned him death threats and a battery of nuisance litigation, but he continues to thwart the spammers’ best efforts.

7. Peter Norton & Peter Tippett

The name Norton has been synonymous with security for, well, about as long as most of us in the IT security industry can remember. Yes, this is the same Peter Norton who gave his name to the Norton brand that was purchased by the Symantec Corporation back in 1990.

However, we haven’t included him here for his involvement with antivirus or internet security software. No, Peter Norton is a security hero because of his work in pioneering data-recovery tools for the PC that pre-date Windows and stretch way back to the age of DOS, when the ability to recover deleted data really was an innovation.

Norton produced a utility to do just that in the 1980s, and this became part of the hugely popular Norton Utilities collection.

So who is Peter Tippett then? Tippett worked alongside Norton to produce what eventually became Norton AntiVirus, as well as being responsible for pioneering the now commonplace recovery disc concept. So when (through either error or malice) your data mysteriously disappears, you can tip your hat in the direction of the two Peters.

8. Peter Gutmann

Of course, there are times when you don’t want to get your data back. In fact, there are times when you don’t want anyone to be able to get your data back; when you sell or recycle your computer, for example. Which is where Peter Gutmann comes in.

This is the computer scientist responsible for the Gutmann method, a technique whereby the contents of a hard drive are overwritten by a series of 35 patterns that totally erase the data.

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