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In Memory of Justin Peltier and Fred Villella

In many ways 2010 was a good year, yet in many ways it was a bad one. Part of the bad side was the loss of two standouts in the information security arena, Justin Peltier and Fred Villella.

Justin was one of the brightest and most energetic information security professionals I have ever known. He had an enormous aptitude for the technical side of information security, and not long after his entrance into information security, he started sharing his aptitude, talents, knowledge and skills with others through all the teaching, lecturing and writing that he did. Although young, he soon became a standout, and the name Justin Peltier drew crowds at classes, conferences and other professional events. All the while, he did not let his success get to his head, but instead conducted himself as if he did not think he was anything special. I also admired the way Justin and his father, Tom Peltier, and he were able to work together so effectively in activities such as teaching courses and presenting Webcasts. Justin would cover technology-related issues, and Tom would cover the administrative/management issues–one of the most effective “tag teams” I have ever seen.

Justin’s dream was to become an FBI agent; I remember one conversation with him in which he described his plan to become get hired by the FBI and what he would do once he started with this agency. Then MS struck him, making him increasingly weaker. He was the editor of the Year in Review series in information security, and after I wrote a chapter for the 2008 edition, I didn’t hear anything more from him. A bit later Tom told me that Justin was losing strength, making him unable to finish the task of editing that edition. At that point I knew that something was really wrong, and when mutual friend Brad Smith told me last October that Justin had departed from us, in a way I was shocked, but in a way I was not. All that I can say is that all that all that Justin accomplished during his rather brief stay on this earth is truly amazing, and he is sorely missed.

Fred Villella was also an amazing person. The first part of his career he was an officer in the Army, and apparently a very good one, as he received promotion-after-promotion until he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. His military career is probably best remembered for his leadership of Army troops in Oxford, Mississippi shortly after a federal judge had ruled that the university there had to be desegregated in 1962. ¬†Angry students and White supremacists started a riot during the middle of one night. Captain Fred Villella’s Army unit, Company A of the 503rd Military Police Battalion, was one of the first to arrive at the scene to keep order. Although pelted with everything from rocks to cherry bombs, somehow Fred was able to keep his troops from causing trouble to escalate–they did not fire a shot, even though at some points their lives were ostensibly threatened. More than one book about this riot has commended Fred for keeping cool, thereby greatly lowering the potential for escalating violence. After retiring from the military, he worked for the U.S. Government, rising to deputy assistant head of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in the Reagan Administration. Afterwards, he started providing training for NASA and other government agencies, and that is how I met him.

Fred was a visionary with a strong proactive focus when it came to security awareness, education and training. He was one of the first to ever use the now well-accepted method of “attack-counterattack” in the courses that he developed and put on for government agencies and others. He felt that without hands-on experience, course attendees would not develop a very deep understanding of the issues and knowledge at hand. He also believed that the content of security awareness, education and training needed to be carefully structured pedagogically, and he incorporated this belief into all the courses that he developed and taught. He also plunged into the security software arena, and was the CEO of several software companies that developed highly useful software such as HIPAA compliance software. Above all else, however, Fred was a man of honesty and integrity. I am confident that for every dollar of government and other money that he took in, he delivered one dollar of value. And he always seemed to be interested in others and their welfare. He, too, is solely missed.

–Gene Schultz, Ph.D., CISSP, CISM, GSLC
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Dr. Eugene Schultz is the CTO at Emagined Security, an information security consulting practice based in San Carlos, California. He is the author/co-author of five books, and has also written over 120 published papers. Gene has been the editor-in-chief of two journals and is currently on the editorial board of three journals. He is also a SANS instructor, member of the SANS NewsBites editorial board, co-author of the 2005 and 2006 CISM preparation materials, and is on the technical advisory board of three companies. Gene has previously managed an information security practice as well as a national incident response team. He has also been professor of computer science at several universities and is retired from the University of California. He has received the NASA Technical Excellence Award, the Department of Energy Excellence Award, the ISACA John Kuyers Best Speaker/Best Conference Contributor Award, the Vanguard Conference Top Gun Award (for best presenter) twice, the Vanguard Chairman’s Award, and the National Information Systems Security Conference Best Paper Award. A Distinguished Fellow of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Gene has also been named to the ISSA Hall of Fame and has received ISSA’s Professional Achievement and Honor Roll Awards. He is currently a member of the accreditation board of the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP). Dr. Schultz has provided expert testimony before committees within the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on various security-related issues, and has served as an expert witness in legal cases.
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