Fears of the world wide web.

Fears of the world wide web.

I noticed I had started this blog some time ago but never got around to finishing it…or for that matter starting it.

Technology Review Magazine hired me some time back to take a portrait of cyber security expert Jeremiah Grossman who, at that time, was based in Maui.  He so happen to be in Honolulu and I had a window of time to shoot a portrait photo of him.

Grossman, who founded White Hat Security, was a punk hacker who hacked Yahoo to show them their security flaws.  He went on to be hired on as one of their Security Officer before starting his own security firm.

Jeremiah, who showed up wearing a business type aloha shirt, hulked right up to me and my assistant, Jamm Aquino at the location.  He had that intense stare that looked right threw you scanning your brain for all your passwords and personal information.  After reading a bit about him, I learned he plays rugby and knows martial arts.  So if he couldn’t read your mind, he likely beat your passwords out of you one way or another.

I knew immediately I had to capture him in a dark and dangerous cyber world atmosphere; however, its hard to capture this in beautiful Honolulu with blue sky and sunshine. People don’t think of Hawaii as a dark place so my challenge was to create a moody scene.

I knew I had to get a few shots of him with the standard blue sky and what not.  But I had the idea to drag him into my dark parking garage and shoot him using the available florescent lights mixed with a bit of daylight.  I wish I had had a set of Kino Flos to really make my mood moodier but the overhead strip did its magic as did the odd shifts of daylight falling in the background.

I then dragged Jeremiah and Jamm down to an alley across the way and we shot him with a bare head and 7″ reflector on a Profoto 7B.  It always surprises me what editors pick as I tend to favor my choices but they hardly get picked.  The mag picked the safer shot of Grossman but I really wished they had gone with the garage shot.

What made the job really memorable was hearing the fears of hacking, the vulnerability of web browsers, and general chaos of the world wide web.  He told me of hacker groups in Eastern Europe stealing credit card numbers and making millions of dollars via holes in the internet.  I learned stories of internet security officers from big companies going to far away lands only to be run out by mafia and other assorted criminals because of the money involved in internet crimes.

Its quiet fascinating to learn that many web based corporations account for a certain percentage of uncontrollable fraud and loss into their business plans.  Although security is improving, nefarious groups and governments keep finding ways into stealing from the unaware.  What was most fascinating was finding out how these cyber security plans you can purchase are more like insurance policies where you are actually just paying a part of their premium for the protection…which in most cases is not really necessary.

The reality in my mind is it can happen to you but hardly likely you’ll end up stripped of everything.  It seems most consumer businesses already have security watching.  We got a call from our credit card one Saturday morning because of odd purchases made at Best Buy and the Apple Store which we didn’t make.  My mother found her credit card hacked as well not too long ago.  Chances are you’ll be hacked at some point vigilance can go along way.  Don’t respond to emails from the former Oil Minister of Kenya and don’t use your bank ATM card for anything on line.

Also, according to Jeremiah, don’t use the same browser to surf and do bank work.  Use separate browsers altogether.  Its likely you’ll get hacked at some point but you’re also likely to have your house broken into (once in Jersey City) or getting rear ended while driving (twice in HNL.)  I’m not saying I’m not scared but our pockets are not as deep as Chase or Ebay, meaning, as an individual, you’re an unknown and no one has any particular interest in you.

By the way, if any of the facts of my story are wrong, I’m certain Jeremiah will find and correct.  I doubt his fists will do the talking but most likely his fingers will commit the terror.

You can see the story here.