Hacker celeb 'Mudge' joins Google after DARPA

What does one of the most respected computer security experts and hackers do after DARPA? Why, he moves to Motorola Mobility, of course.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
2 min read
Peiter Zatko, the hacker known as "Mudge." (Credit: BBN Technologies)

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, who was hired three years ago to be a project manager at the U.S. Department of Defense's research and development division known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has announced via Twitter that he's returning to the private sector with Google.

In his new role at Google, The Security Ledger reports, Zatko will be working in an unspecified role with Motorola Mobility's Advanced Technology and Projects division, reporting to Regina Dugan. Dugan is also new to Google, hired last month away from her position as director of DARPA.

It's no surprise that Zatko followed Dugan to Google. When he was first hired by Dugan at DARPA, he told CNET that he was impressed with Dugan's leadership. "Now they are running more programs out of DARPA that are not classified beyond what they need to be, so it will enable more people to have visibility into them," he said in 2010, praising her "entrepreneurial" focus.

Zatko has a long history of innovating in the computer security world. As a teenager in the 1980s, he was involved in various hacking endeavors, and wound up running the L0pht hacker space in the 1990s. As a leader then in the movement to get companies to fully reveal their security vulnerabilities publicly, "he invented anti-sniffing technology that became the first remote promiscuous system detector used by the Defense Department," CNET's Elinor Mills reported when Zatko joined DARPA.

"L0pht turned the industry on its head," he told CNET then. "You didn't have security response teams at major organizations like Microsoft or Intel until we came along."

Zatko has a history of bouncing between the public and private sectors. While still at L0pht, he became one of the first hackers to testify in front of the U.S. Senate, and in 2000 he met with President Bill Clinton to discuss the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that were crippling the Internet at the time. Four years later, he returned to BBN Technologies, a government contractor that he worked at in the 1990s, before joining DARPA.

Mudge appears to be a good fit for ATAP, which Motorola Mobility describes as being "skunkworks-inspired. Optimized for speed. Small, lean, resourced. With agility, freedom from bureaucratic constraints, and a willingness to embrace risk as core attributes."