It’s taken a few days, and I can’t say that I’ve gotten my head wrapped around the fact that my best friend has left the planet. Becky and I met briefly in 1965, when we were both in the 5th grade and I was back in Leeds for a few months between my Dad’s deployments. We moved back to Leeds permanently in the fall of 1968 after my father’s death in Viet Nam. Becky and I were in the 8th grade. To this day, I have no idea why she decided that she was going to be my BFF, but she would have it no other way, and called me every night to giggle for hours on end until I came to the realization that unlike just about everyone else I’d ever known she wasn’t going away.
We made quite a pair, she Japanese, tall, loud and a total brainiac. I was and still am, 5 foot nothing, tiny (not any more dangit), merely very smart and quiet; she went down the halls like the QEII and I was always in her wake. What we discovered is that we filled in the blanks for each other and there was never a drop of competition, ever. We could and did tell each other everything and could trust that a confidence would never be broken. We saw each other through high school angst, boyfriends and navigating through the cliques that neither of us fit into, and frankly did not want to, so we formed our own. The Freaks and Geeks are all still friends.
Becky introduced me to my college sweetheart who remained my friend until his death in 2010. After I left Birmingham in 1982, she and Paul set me up on a blind date with Bill Spies, and as a testament to another of her skills we were engaged 2 weeks later. I don’t know if it was a goal of theirs, but it did get me off their sofa!!
We were in each other’s weddings, she and Paul were godparents to my oldest child, Daniel and I was godmother to Joey. We’d watched their struggles to have a child and were so tickled for them when Joey was born. Until Tuesday, the hardest thing I’d ever had to do was read the prayers of the people at his funeral service, that is, until I read them at hers.
We all know there were lots of ups and downs and changes. Through it all, our friendship was a constant. Perhaps I represented home and simpler times – I don’t know. What I do know is that Becky was my touchstone and she’s gone.
(Carole Fennelly – Shared at https://www.the-parallax.com/2017/03/20/remembering-cybersecurity-pioneer-becky-bace/)
Becky Bace was not the kind of computer security expert who appeared on talk shows, trying to literally scare up interest in whatever she was selling. She was a strong voice of reason in the information security community, a champion for women in the industry, and an encourager of security researchers everywhere. And she was my dear friend.
Becky died unexpectedly on March 14 after a brief illness. The security community, and the people who were eventually protected by her work, will be poorer for her loss.
Chief strategist at the Center for Forensics, Information Technology, and Security at the University of South Alabama, Becky struggled against the discrimination against women pervasive in the industry, but persisted anyway, becoming one of the principal pioneers of intrusion detection technology. Entire companies exist because of the work of Becky and her colleagues.
Becky and I met when she was nominated as a possible judge for the first Hacker Court in 2001, which I organized at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas and would run every year until 2011. The mock trial demonstrated challenges in presenting technical evidence in court.
Many wonderfully talented people were involved in Hacker Court at the time, cybersecurity and privacy luminaries including (but hardly limited to) Jennifer Granick, Jonathan Klein, Jack Holleran, Richard Salgado, Paul Ohm, Richard Thieme, and Kevin Bankston. Jack Holleran knew Becky and thought she’d get a kick out of it. Of course, I knew who she was—I even had her book, Intrusion Detection.
I was intimidated to reach out to her, but her email@example.com email address suggested someone who was quite approachable. I was delighted to speak with another “mom” in the industry—there were so few of us—and when I asked about her kids, I was mortified to discover that she had lost her only child to cancer at a young age.
I thought it discreet to avoid further mention of my kids, but Becky would have none of that. She immediately began treating my kids like she was their long-lost aunt, and often asked how they were doing and offered them advice.
“Ryan! So great to see you!” Becky exclaimed as she greeted my son at the O’Reilly Security Conference in the fall of 2016. After conversing with Ryan, whom she’d known for more than 15 years, about his job at Ipsos, she turned to me and asked, “So how’s our girl?” referring to my daughter, Caitlin, who at age 8 served as Becky’s clerk on stage at that first Hacker Court.
Over the years, Becky has inspired Caitlin a great deal—and expected great things from her. I told her Caitlin was now a software developer at Unium, and she proceeded to discuss the company’s technology and prospects. She knew everything about the business.
Becky loved to laugh, and she loved incongruities. She described herself as a “redneck Japanese from Alabama,” a fact she found amusing. She loved to send up stereotypes and laughed with the Hacker Court team as we came up with ridiculous, implausible scenarios for cybercrime cases.
She often referred to the movie My Cousin Vinny when we worked on our mock trials, and particularly enjoyed this line delivered by Joe Pesci as the title character Vinny Gambini: “Hey, Stan, you’re in Ala-fuckin’-bama. You come from New York. You killed a good ol’ boy. There is no way this is not going to trial!”
Becky’s humorous common sense, kindness, and formidable knowledge was a refreshingly contrasted change from the snake-oil salesmenship and fraud in this industry. She genuinely cared about people and made many feel as if they were particularly special to her.
Soon after I lost my mother in early 2014, Becky reached out to ask if I’d be on a panel at RSA. When I declined, she sent me the following email, which I think is particularly appropriate to share now:
I can so relate to the stressors you’re weathering right now. When my dad left us, I was still on the West Coast, and spent so much of the year following his demise juggling work and travel to and from Alabama—FWIW, it’s survivable, but I remember the stress levels all too well. As for your dad, it was amazing to me how the local community closed ranks behind my mother and siblings, providing moral support and other more substantial offerings—I hope that the same will kick into action for him and the rest of your family. It’s a non-trivial transition and you’re entitled to be overwhelmed by it all (and to be cut a non-trivial amount of slack to allow you to grieve and resolve the loss.)
Getting to know Becky widened my circle of contacts more than any social-media platform I’ve ever used. She knew everyone and loved to connect people to see what would come of it. It was fitting that she worked with Trident Capital as a venture consultant—she knew the people, and she knew the technology, and there was no one who was better at making those connections.
Becky Bace is no longer with us, but her work—and many of the relationships and projects she incubated and encouraged—live on.
The best way to honor her memory is to pass the torch. Make those introductions for people who are new in the field. Take the time to provide counsel. Be kind and caring. Work your ass off, even when people disparage you. Be eclectic, and don’t fit into any particular slot. You can only be cutting-edge if you throw out the box.
Be like Becky.
I remember meeting Becky… must have been about 25 years or so ago.
She was certainly memorable; a self-professed hick (of the “aw, shucks, let’s play poker, can you remind me of the rules?” shark type), NSA spook who I found a bit impenetrable at first, but she came along with Bob Abbott, who for my money could do no wrong….
She was very, very, very kind – not only to me, but to everyone that I saw her interact with, and had a real gift understanding people, although she was overly generous (perhaps over the top) in her estimation of me and my abilities. Years later she said she didn’t think I liked her… but that was me, not her.
Nearly 40 years ago, after the first significant person in my life died I … didn’t exactly vow or promise, but made a vow to *try* to tell people who have made a difference in my life what they meant to me prior to their demise.
With Becky, I thought I’d have time to tell her what she meant to me.
And I did, but I didn’t.
I’m sorry, Becky, I was looking forward to knowing you better, I blew that one, no?
I’ve always had troubles dealing with people; bits can be frustrating, but oh so simpler. And now, so many dead. When I started out there were almost no young folks in the field – some pretty fringe and mostly (not all!) hackery types. The rest were nearly gray beards or at least settled in Government or Big Biz type jobs. How times change, and don’t. And now I’m the old guy getting misty eyed about the past.
Becky, I shall miss you.
(Anita D’amico, CEO, Code DX)
Rebecca Gurley Bace, a member of the Advisory Board of Code Dx, Inc., died last week. While we lament her loss as an Advisor to Code Dx, Inc., that lament is dwarfed by my personal sense of loss of Becky Bace’s friendship and mentorship. Becky was truly one-of-a-kind.
I met Becky about ten years ago, through a mutual friend, Simone Seth, who said “I think you two will really get along.” I had no idea that when we dined at G&M, a favorite NSA restaurant, I was meeting one of the five most influential women in cyber security. Becky was unpretentious; she had a down-home Alabaman warmth, and talked for a long time about family and food before discussing business. It was only after I returned to my hotel that night, when I dwelled on our conversation, that I realized I was fortunate enough to have experienced great crab cakes and an amazing person, who I would grow to know over the next decade. Beyond the southern friendliness was a steely woman, with incredible intellect and ability to foresee technological advances that were decades ahead of what was deemed “state of the art.”
For those who are not aware of Becky’s contribution to cyber security, take some time to look her up. She overcame significant adversity—racial and sexual discrimination, a neurological disorder, a view that she was “unfit” to be educated, and personal tragedy—to become one of the five most influential women in cyber security. She influenced the very early stages of cyber security while she worked at NSA, where she was one of the pioneers in intrusion detection, and later Los Alamos National Laboratory. She was influential in the early stages of In-Q-Tel (the intelligence community venture capital fund), and was a major player in Silicon Valley’s Trident Capital’s investments in cyber security technology.
Becky’s partner in pioneering advances was her dear friend Terri Gilbert; together they started a cyber security consultant company with the evocative name “Infidel, Inc.” It was then that Becky adopted a memorable email address “infomom at infidel.net.” The “mom” part of her email address reflected the “Mama Bear” part of Becky that generously advised and mentored young people and young companies, like Code Dx, Inc., to help us achieve our vision.
Becky seemingly knew everyone in cyber security. She had a “rolodex” (those under 40 will have to look that up) that was unparalleled. She really knew the people in her network; when she called or emailed us, we answered, no matter how busy we were. In the last stage of her life, she used that network to help the Center for Forensics and IT Security at the University of South Alabama (USA) where she served as their Chief Strategist. When I was at USA last September and met up with Dr. Alec Yasinsac, the Dean of the School of Computing, I remarked that he pulled off a great feat in getting Becky to “retire” to a position at USA. However, after seeing the exciting programs that Alec had already initiated at their School of Computing, it was no surprise that Becky wanted to join up.
When Becky returned to her native Alabama for the final stage of her career, it was on far different terms than when she left many years ago. When Becky grew up near Birmingham, one of six children born to an Alabama soldier and his Japanese bride, she felt the isolation of racial discrimination. Her feeling of not fitting in was exacerbated by a neurological disorder that caused seizures. In fact, her neurologist told Becky’s mother that after graduating high school Becky should plan on being on disability for the rest of her life. This woman, who became a pioneer in cyber security, was seen as unfit for college or a career.
Becky eventually did go to college, after a local librarian noticed Becky’s intelligence, became her advocate, and helped her apply to college. This may have been her inspiration for being a mentor and advisor to others throughout her career. When Becky started at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (with two scholarships), she was the only woman in the engineering school. After college, she used her brief stint as photocopier repair person (no time here for that story) to position herself at the doorstep of NSA. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or herstory, in Becky’s case.
We will all miss you, “MamaBear.” Thanks for letting us into your life.
The cybersecurity community will miss you
(Elizabeth Safran posted at http://www.lookingglasspr.com/blog—through-the-looking-glass/goodbye-and-godspeed-becky-bace-the-cybersecurity-community-will-miss-you)
March has been a rough month for the Cyber Security community.
On March 2, Howard Schmidt, one of the industry’s first CISOs (if not the first) and former cyber security advisor for two presidents passed away from cancer.
If that wasn’t bad enough, on March 14 – we lost Becky Bace – a much beloved security strategist, technologist, academic, researcher, author, connector-of-people, mentor, raconteur and self-defined Infidel. She was known as the “Den Mother of Information Security” and loved by many.
Talk about a one-two punch.
I met both of them right around the same time. I was the external PR person for several Trident Capital companies – Sygate, TriCipher, Thor, AirTight and KSR (now Neohapsis).
Howard was on the board of Sygate (and TriCipher?? I forget…). Becky did technical due diligence for Trident, and was hands-on with all of the ones I worked with. I used both of them as spokespeople, regularly, which is how I got to know them.
Collectively, they played a major role in ushering in a generation of cyber security professionals. Fittingly, Howard’s life and times warranted a New York Times story and several loving trade press articles. In many ways, he was the face of the Cyber security profession – its ambassador to the world at large. But Becky…she was its heart.
Becky was as seminal a presence as Howard, but in a different way. If the cyber security industry was a car (Becky always did like analogies…), Howard was the headlights, illuminating the way forward. Becky – a technologist, academic, teacher, and nurturer at heart – was the chassis, built by design to bring people along for the ride, safely.
Becky was undeniably brilliant. She was funkier than Howard, maybe even slightly kooky, but in the very best way. I mean, how many Japanese people do you know that speak with a(n American) Southern twang?
When I met Becky I was just getting my footing in the PR world and had naturally gravitated towards cyber security (then called “infosec”) as an area of expertise. Having entered the workforce relatively late – after a detour down what most might consider an unconventional path – I felt a kinship with hacker-types. I was especially drawn to those whose contributions were valued enough to where any potential non-conformity was accepted.
Becky for me was living proof that I could excel professionally without having to posture or pretend to be anything I wasn’t. That was news to me at the time, and I was overjoyed.
I worked more closely with her for longer than I did with Howard, plus for a while we lived close proximity of each other (I lived in downtown San Jose, she and Terri lived in the “Republic of Scotts Valley”). It was during that time that I really got to know her. And to know Becky is to love her.
That’s why the news of her passing is such a gut punch. Like my friend Jon Brody said when he texted me about her passing, “this one hurts.”
And the stories on Becky are beginning to post – in SC Mag, in CSO, and her partner Terri is posting personal reflections and memories of Becky at infidel.net.
Beware the Ides of March – someone important always seems to die on that day.
I’ll miss you Becky. Rest in Peace.
In 2003, I was working at Sygate Technologies, a company that Becky greenlighted (John DeSantis reminded me last week) and on whose board Howard Schmidt served.
Becky was also an advisor to us. I was lucky that not everyone knew what to do with her energy and enthusiasm, so often it seemed like she was my advisor.
She was a super friend, bigger than life, could do things no one could, she didn’t even appear to have a ‘kryptonite’ – the complexities of her world took no obvious toll… Her generosity was always available, always abundant.
I never felt I could ever return to her any significant measure of the love and friendship she gave to me and my family.
In small ways we tried. Frequent dinners, and one unforgettable road trip.
I relocated the family in 2003 to DC and as luck would have it, Becky was bicoastal. So she’d come to visit, with Terri, with Paul. The whole mishpocheh (she knew a lot of Yiddish for a Japanese Alabama American).
My wife, a huge James Bond fan, believed that having worked at the NSA, Becky would be able to validate, and expand on the inventions of Q. So in exchange for various Cuban and Spanish suppers, and a few Raclette festivals, starting in Berkeley and continuing in DC, Becky would allow my wife dozens of inane questions – ‘ can you really eavesdrop with a laser, were those Rosa Klebb knife shoes standard issue?’. Becky would neither confirm or deny, mostly because the less she said the more extraordinary my wife’s speculations became. I had to explain to her that Becky didn’t respond, not so much because she couldn’t, but because baiting you is the only way the NSA gets its new ideas.
Anyway, it was Winter, 2003 I think. I mentioned to Becky that I was going to visit a customer in Philly and she said, ‘I know (half a dozen names) we could drop in on our way’.
Road Trip! We left late, snow was in the forecast, and a trip with a bunch of stops to Philly would doubtless take twice as long as if we just went there but then …
Our first waypoint was Marvin Shaefer. I knew nothing about Marvin, still don’t know as much as I should other than she thought the world of him, and described him as an oracle in Northern Maryland who owned a giant used bookstore.
We arrived after dark, snow had started. It seemed to me he was the only occupant of a strip mall filling several storefronts with endless shelves of books. While Becky and Marvin (who I don’t think I would be the first to describe as ‘think of Santa, now open your eyes – there he is, its actually Santa’ – got to catching up, I looked through the shelves and found a section of declassified cryptology books, one of which I had to own – some research on ciphers from the Vatican back when the Barberini’s ran the show. And another had to have “Solution of the Voynich Manuscript, A Liturgical Manual for the Endura Rite of the Cathari Heresy, The Cult of Isis”.
Next stop, a restaurant in the middle of what looked like nowhere on account of the pitch blackness and the intense snowfall. Becky insisted. I don’t remember its name but I think it had the word “Bob” in it. It was kind of Applebee like. It had that ‘end of the line’ friendly atmosphere which was totally appropriate that time of night, in that weather. But she insisted that I was going to love this place. And I did. Their alchemists produced the perfect symphony of my three favorite foodstuffs. A giant pretzel (bigger than any I’d ever seen before – size of a pizza), covered in my favorite seafood, crabmeat, itself covered in my favorite food that I believe doubles as an intravenous spray-in insulator – cheese whiz. Some of you may know of this magic. I’ve since found it at other places but as a former New Yorker, Berkeley exile, I believe I looked and sounded like that viral video of a baby eating bacon for the first time. It made me happier than almost anything, ever.
So we got to Philly near midnight, checked into a thing called Club Quarters recommended by a young PhD Becky told us to hire immediately (so we did), Kevin Soo Hoo, and apparently carried in her luggage, who recommended it, and who I assume, new to the startup business, was in a bit in shock about what was probably sold as customer visit, but must have seemed more like a kidnapping.
Anyway I don’t remember the customer visit. If it was with you Craig, please accept my apologies. I’m sure that, as well as it probably went, getting there with Becky, pushed everything else out of the way.
There weren’t many other trips with Becky but were there were many visits with her, Terri, Paul, over the years.
I spoke with her the day before she left to Howard’s funeral. She was making plans to come east for her niece’s wedding (hope I got that right). We promised to meet.
I told my wife the god awful news and stunned, she stopped, burst into tears and said, ‘her hugs, she had the coolest cheeks’.
I think that’s enough. No. One more… her magnificent greeting – one of her arms pointed skyward, you knew what to do, get in there for that enveloping hug as she dropped her arm around you.
I owe you Becky.
(From Simone Seth)
Those words in Hindi mean “silent giving”. Those are the words that come to my mind when I think of Becky Bace. Over the decades as I have met people during the course of my career, every single person talked about the influence that Becky had in their lives. Every single person talked about her generosity in helping them to flourish. And for all of her service and for all of her contributions, she asked for nothing in return.
Becky’s selfless nature is something we can all only aspire to. It takes a very rare and special person to relinquish the pursuit of wealth or fame or approbation of others and simply relentlessly pursue excellence and service. This selflessness is what personifies Becky to me.
When I first met Becky, I thought she would be a wonderful person to know who would be able to help me in my career. But within minutes of meeting her, our discussion focused on the necklace she was wearing and that meandered into a discussion about jewelry and fabric and fashion and all the girly things that make my heart happy. Before you knew it, all professional considerations fell away. And the only thing that was left were two women who had an remarkable connection.
I made a decision at that instant to never talk to Becky about work. I decided instead to cherish her as a friend. And I kept my promise. I did not ask her for anything and I did not leverage her network or her experience to grow my own career…… despite her many offers to help me. Instead I devoted my time to cultivating our friendship.
I was one of the lucky people who was privileged to enjoy (dare I say it) her somewhat dirty sense of humor, her love of fabric and color and food and gardening. We shared stories about our fears and our hopes and our loves and our disappointments. We shared our fears about the future of the world. We shared our hope for humanity. We shared so very much. My life was enriched by her. Whenever I was despondent or cynical, she would lift me up. She was unrelenting in her generosity.
Naturally the world has lost an intellect unlike any other. We have lost a pioneer in the world of cyber security and technology. Her contributions are manifold and well documented. I won’t belabor them here. All I want to talk about is the magnificent human being she was and how much I will feel the loss of her advice and her counsel and her humor as I go through my days. I hope that as I confront each new situation, I will ask myself what Becky would say and do precisely that. I hope to honor her legacy by being as generous and as decent as she was to everyone. I hope to be worthy of her belief in me.
I hope that Becky is beyond all the pain and suffering. I hope that she is resting in peace. But somehow I suspect that in heaven, she is orchestrating things so that the world will continue to evolve and achieve the peace and harmony that she strove for at all times.
Lots of love my dear friend until I see you again
I had less than a dozen interactions with Becky, perhaps a handful of those were intimate 1:1 meetings, but she has left a lasting impression on me and I will always remember her.
I am 33 years old and and live in San Francisco. I have worked in Information Security for the last decade or so. I met Becky when I was just getting started through the Executive Women’s Forum. I was very junior at the time and Becky was so kind to me. I remember meeting her for lunch at a Thai restaurant in San Jose, CA and thinking, Becky is such a badass. Why is she even giving me the time of day?
I remember her warm and friendly demeanor, her charming voice, how I had a little bit of trouble hearing everything she had to say when we were in a busy conference environment and would need to lean in to catch all of her words.
I can’t stop thinking about a meeting I had with her in New York last year. A couple of years ago, my daughter was born and my father passed away a week later. It was an incredibly transformative time for me, and Becky listened and gave me beautiful space to share my story, my joy, and my grief. That’s when I learned about the various medical issues that she had been battling over the past few years. She also shared with me the story of her son’s life and his death. I was so struck by Becky’s most recent success against cancer. I told her that for all she had been through, it was clear that she still had work left to do on this earth.
The last time I saw Becky was at the RSA conference, for lunch on Valentine’s Day. I was the event organizer and Becky was one of my favorites, so I arranged for her to sit next to me. There were about 30 women in attendance and many that I had not seen in over a year, so I did not make a special effort to spend time with Becky 1:1. I wish that I had.
Becky told me that she loved seeing pictures of my daughter, Sue, on Facebook. Now whenever I post photos it makes me sad that she will not see them. However, it brings me joy to know that she is with her little boy.
I have grown a lot in my own spirituality since the time of my fathers passing and have been working on coming to terms with my father’s death, my own future death, and the inevitable deaths of my husband and daughter. I know that it happens to us all, but my heart thought that Becky would always be around.
I will miss her very much.
Becky Bace was indeed a pioneer in the field of information security. and the security community collectively mourns her passing. Her contributions to the general public, industry clients, and student of all sorts changed the way many people now view and deal with the challenges that computers and the Internet pose to government, business and society.
But, in addition to her many publicized contributions to information and cyber security was something that I believe set her aside from a lot of other recognized experts – her humanity. Those who had the privilege to meet and interact with Becky had the opportunity to experience first hand her passion for helping others. Whether it was taking the time to explain a complex security concept to an executive or novice after a conference briefing, or offering to be a mentor to a nascent security practitioner wondering if they had what it took to succeed in this field, her greatest contribution was her willingness to freely share her knowledge with others, and always without any expectation of personal recognition.
The information security community has lost a great mind, a thoughtful practitioner and an innovator that helped make the industry what it is today. But more than that, the world has lost a kind, loving and passionate person who so often shared her passion for learning and gave of herself to help others. I am confident many of those touched by Becky over the years will honor her life by sharing the passion she lit within them with others, developing greater understanding of digital risks and perhaps creating the next generation of experts that will, in turn, help others, which I believe is a fitting legacy.
Rest in peace Becky.
I wish I’d spent more time with her. I always assumed there would be more opportunities, and I was always “temporarily” so busy.
She has been so important in the field of security, but she was also just a wonderful human being.
Obviously, she was brilliant. But also, funny, warm, caring. I feel so lucky to have known her, and honored to consider her a friend. She has touched many people, as I’ve heard about her passing from so many people, who are all shocked by the suddenness, and will miss her. Suddenness, I guess is good. It sounds like she did not suffer, and it’s nice to think of her living her wonderful, adventurous, joyful life to the last moment.