Author of report critical of Microsoft loses job

Posted by bink on September 26 2003, 5:49 AM. Posted in Microsoft Corp.

The chief technology officer for a technology firm that works closely with Microsoft Corp. lost his job after he helped write a study critical of the insecurity of Microsoft software.

Daniel E. Geer Jr., an expert with nearly three decades studying technology and computer security, learned Thursday he was no longer employed by AtStake Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

AtStake declined to say whether Geer resigned or was fired. Spokeswoman Lona Therrien said Microsoft did not call for Geer's dismissal, which AtStake said was effective two days ago. Microsoft also said it was not involved in the decision.

But critics said Geer's firing was reflective of Microsoft's far-reaching ability in Washington and across the technology industry to silence experts who complain about weaknesses in its software or its aggressive business practices. The Justice Department struggled years ago to find technology executives willing to testify against Microsoft in its antitrust trial.

Geer could not be reached immediately for comment, but one person familiar with Geer's situation said he was fired in a call Thursday morning from AtStake executives.

AtStake has worked closely with Microsoft in the past, examining some of its software blueprints for security problems and providing consulting services.

AtStake's announcement came one day after Geer and six other experts published a report complaining that the U.S. government relies too heavily on software from Microsoft. It argued that the widespread dominance of Windows has created an unhealthy ``monoculture'' inadequately resistant to viruses and attacks by hackers.

Geer was identified Wednesday in a conference call with journalists as AtStake's technology officer and the lead author of the report, which was funded by the Washington-based Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade group whose members include some of Microsoft's biggest corporate rivals.

``The values and opinions of the report are not in line with AtStake's views,'' the company said in a statement. It said Geer's participation working on the report was ``not sanctioned.''

``Security is much more complicated than focusing on this one issue,'' said Chris Wysopal, AtStake's director of research and development. ``We think the way the (CCIA) paper is positioned ... is just not the answer.''

Wysopal said experts within AtStake debate about security issues internally but that Geer represented his views as the company's consensus. ``We value diversity of opinions here,'' Wysopal said.

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