Of Good Guys & Bad Guys....

I remember the first night I got involved with Elcomsoft quite clearly. It was a beautifully warm San Francisco night and I went up to the city to attend the Software Development Forum's first security sig wwww.sdforum.org and I was quite impressed by the speaker - the infamous Phil Zimmermann, whom I would later get quite get kicked out of an RSA party with Sally ReportAnyhow, it was standing room only and the air-conditioning wasn't working. It was hotter than hell and I was standing by the beverage table so wishing I had a tall glass of iced Long Island tea when a very polite Russian gentleman offered me the last of the warm soda. We got to talking and I found I had met Alex Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, who was looking for help to get his employee Dimitry Sklyarov out of a Federal prison where he had been arrested for giving a paper at a hackers conference about breaking Adobe's incredibly archaic e-book encryption software. Well, I had heard about the case and would later drive him over to the World Internet Center to meet with some people who might be able to help him, and I would a few weeks later, when talking with John Perry Barlow, mention the fact that they could really use some greenbacks and some friends in their fight against the DOJ. I remember meeting with Dimitry for the first time. He hadn't been out of prison for too long and I sat around the table with his Dream Team of attorneys; I ended up writing an entire chapter in FutureNet about the DMCA and the commercial interests it protects.

Dimitry is quiet, kind of shy actually and very polite. He also has a really good sense of humor. He was sooo young, I suppose he's 28 now. I remember receiving a sweet email note from his wife thanking me for my help - that was very touching. It was as though Russia had nothing to do with it (and it didn't, the Feds just thought they'd play the bad-guy Russian-hacker card), it was as though programming were a common language that brought people together. I remember meeting her for the first time at WIRED's Rave Awards where Dave Winer beat Dimitry out for Renegade of The Year...blogs are great and so is walking the fence between Microsoft and open source (but MS screwed him in the end anyway), but going to a Federal prison for giving a paper! In my book - that wins hands down! Anyhow, I would later speak out on CNET and CNN about how the DOJ was taking a knife to a gun fight. Actually, they took a gun to a gun fight and they shot themselves in the foot. We got to see the government in action, and it brought all the rest of us together to fight the upcoming battle that's being waged against technologists' civil rights to create and the users' ability to use.

I do remember that night quite clearly on a number of levels. I had gone over to my lover's (a young financial analyst who clearly couldn't get his head around why I was so excited about the meeting I had just attended) flat straight away. I jumped on his phone and computer and called John Warnock and left a message as well as sent him an email asking him to not only drop the charges, but to pay for the defense. I reminded him that ideas for the most part are not original - I mean, he left PARC to start Adobe.... Technologies are built on other ideas. The Warnock I had known hadn't ever let me down in the past, but has never contacted me again.

Well, I was quite inspired that night because the programmers were sitting there listening to Zimmermann www.philzimmermann.com tell them about his battle with the government when he released PGP. It was great fodder for the fight ahead. And as it usually is for me in one of these epiphanous moments of technology...I had yet another insight. I shouldn't sleep with men who aren't technologists...it's like water and oil. My joyful finance guy was sitting on his bed being all sexy and playing his guitar and trying to woo me between the sheets with his serenades. And here I was on the computer sending email and trying to rally the troops. Well of course I ended up having one last passionate night with him (a girl can only stick to her principles for so long under the pressure of Led Zepplin IV riffs, right?). But, as I've talked to other women technologists, I've found that they too want somebody to whisper sweet somethings with about the important aspects of technology for pillow talk. And I've found that most men want to leave it at work. We are funny creatures when it comes to our technology and passions. Just a sidebar.

I have more slides I'll be posting in the future, as well as video footage of the Federal Courts Picket.