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Fired CISO says his comments never put Penn.'s data at risk

Maley admits he was wrong to speak at RSA, won't appeal firing

March 18, 2010 03:52 PM ET

Computerworld - Robert Maley was fired from his job as the chief information security officer for the state of Pennsylvania earlier this month after he spoke, without proper authorization, about security incidents involving the state during a panel discussion at the RSA trade show.

References he made to a security incident involving the online driving test system at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in particular were believed to have led to his termination. A state spokesman has not commented, citing privacy rules, except to confirm that Maley is no longer employed by the commonwealth. In this interview, Maley gives his side of the events that led to his dismissal.

Robert Maley
Robert Maley

What exactly happened? They terminated me. I was specifically asked not to talk about anything in Pennsylvania without explicit permission and to have everything that I would say to be completely reviewed before I said it. So yeah, they told me that, and, yup, I was wrong ultimately doing that. As far as the official reason, that's why. It's not because of the PennDOT incident. It was because I did not have permission to speak. Not just at RSA, I wasn't permitted to speak anywhere. I was on vacation when I went there. I went out there on my own time.

What prompted you to do that? Pennsylvania is facing a lot of significant challenges with the economy, as are a lot of other states, with budget cuts, training cuts. It just made things very difficult. I don't presume to be the know-all expert about anything, and I need to get myself around the type of experts that they have at these conferences so I can learn what's going on so I can take that information back and share it with the staff.

I was the one that was responsible for information security at Pennsylvania, so being exposed to the caliber of the people that I find at these conferences and the education that I can get [was important].

But what prompted you to speak about Pennsylvania security matters at RSA knowing that you didn't have the required clearance? Two reasons. The first was to promote the success that the commonwealth of PA has made in the information assurance world, and the second was to share information with my peers -- information I hoped they would find valuable in furthering our common goal of protecting our assets.

So what happened at PennDOT? There's been a lot of speculation in the press about the PennDOT incident. First, it wasn't a hacking. It was an anomaly. Something happened. It was caught. It was identified. The incident was closed and the vulnerability was closed as well. I would have never spoken in public about any vulnerability that would have exposed the citizens of the commonwealth. That is something I have never done and never would do. I was using [the PennDOT incident] as an example of legacy applications that are still at risk. The whole purpose of using that as an example is that the people at RSA are the ones who are responsible for protecting their citizens, their company. It helps for people to know what is really going on, about how fast things are changing.

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