Editor’s Note: Updated with comment from Google on Zatko’s role. – PFR
Noted hacker and innovator Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a project manager for cyber security research at DARPA for the past three years- will be setting up shop in the Googleplex, according to a post on his Twitter feed.
Zatko, who earned fame as a founding member of the early 1990s Boston-area hacker confab The L0pht and later as a division scientist at government contractor BBN Technologies, announced his departure from DARPA following a three-year stint as a Program Manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office on Friday. “Given what we all pulled off within the USG, let’s see if it can be done even better from outside. Goodbye DARPA, hello Google!” he Tweeted.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zatko’s hiring and Zatko declined to expound on his title and responsibilities within the search giant. However, he has acknowledged that he is relocating from the Washington, D.C. area to the Bay Area to work at Google’s headquarters.
Contacted by The Security Ledger, a Google spokesperson confirmed the hire, and said that Zatko will join Motorola Mobility’s Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP) group, working under Regina Dugan.
ATAP is a DARPA-like group within Motorola (which was acquired by Google). It’s mission is to deliver “breakthrough innovations to the company’s product line on seemingly impossible short timeframes.”
“ATAP is skunkworks-inspired. Optimized for speed. Small, lean, resourced. With agility, freedom from bureaucratic constraints, and a willingness to embrace risk as core attributes. ATAP is focused on harnessing best-in-class, interdisciplinary talent from inside and outside Motorola Mobility, as well as technological developments from whatever the source,” according to information posted on the Motorola web site.
At DARPA, Zatko worked to spur innovation on cyber security initiatives, address key security threats stemming from insider threats and sophisticated nation-backed attackers, and to cut through a moribund grant process that disadvantaged small, innovative startups from seeking government funding.
His three main initiatives at DARPA were development of MNP – The Military Networking Protocol, The Cyber Insider Threat (CINDER) program and Cyber Fast Track (CFT), a program to collect and quickly approve skunkworks projects related to pressing cyber security problems.
Zatko’s work within DARPA has been widely praised, especially by technology startups who appreciated fast funding through the CFT program. But Zatko’s emphasis on experimentation and commitment to opening federal contracts to small, startups was also believed to have ruffled feathers within a Defense Industrial Base establishment dominated by a handful of giant contractors that benefit from high barriers to entry and ponderous, time-consuming and expensive contracting processes.