[Owasp-board] Update on Google Hacking Inquiry and Request for Reinstatement

Matt Tesauro matt.tesauro at owasp.org
Fri Feb 14 03:22:51 UTC 2014


I'm taking a bit of time to respond to this after sleeping on my response
for several days.  I continue to have issues that I feel compelled to air
to the board list.  I will try to keep this short.

(1) I have no problem with removing the inquiry content off the wiki.  Its
continued utility, without regard to its past utility, is little to zero to
both OWASP and the world at large.

(2) I do have a problem with the statement you propose to put in its place.
 I'm not sure what purpose it serves beyond denigrating the work by
previous board members.  Simply removing of the content (and the fact that
there's wiki history to show it was removed for the curious) demonstrates
that it is no longer relevant.

However, your statement is a quasi-indictment of the actions of a past
board.  Read between your lines - the fact that "to wipe the slate clean",
"intentionally injure or impugn the professional reputation" plus "We feel
sincerely sorry for any damages" presupposes that there was purposeful and
intended fault on the part of those working on that inquiry.

Please don't set the precedent for future boards to retrospectively
question the actions of past boards and the community hampered the
distortion of time and the utter lack of context in which the original
decision was made.  For egregious faults, definitely question past boards
or any relevant parties, but this is no where near that standard.

Add to this the fact that I have yet to see Christian take one iota of
responsibility for any of his actions with the community in the past.  He
has been negative on multiple occasions - look at the Top 10 list for his
Sonatype + Aspect conspiracy emails, look at the plainly hateful comment
about Paulo's tragic loss.  I have yet to hear any words of atonement,
regret or contrition from Christian.  Everything happens *to him*, not by

Add to this that he is the ONLY community member, current or past, that
required a Gmall tag in my @owasp.org email just to keep track of the
controversies around him.  This was particularly true during my stint on
the Foundation board but didn't stop when my board tenure ended.

Finally, OWASP is principally constructed of *volunteers* who *choose* to
spend time on OWASP and forgo spending their free time on other pursuits -
a meritocracy, if you will.  I see little to no value to the community in
your suggested message about the Google Hacking Inquiry.  I'd much prefer
time (and wiki) content was spent extolling those that add to the community
in substantial ways rather then someone who's contributions are
controversial at best.

I look forward to your well reasoned reply as well as a overly long email
from Christian with loads of links to cherry-picked, out of context

For my own self, I'm going to focus on the positive portions of the OWASP
community.  Even those who contribute outside OWASP to the betterment of
applications and developers [1] who purportedly have "well known mental
health issues". His answer is not far off what I would have said, but he,
unlike me, took the time to answer and help someone in need.

</Matt's at least 10 cents>


-- Matt Tesauro
OWASP WTE Project Lead
http://AppSecLive.org - Community and Download site
OWASP OpenStack Security Project Lead

On Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 5:28 PM, Josh Sokol <josh.sokol at owasp.org> wrote:

> OWASP Board,
> I feel, at this point, like I am ready to make a recommendation on the
> Google Hacking Inquiry, but am currently waiting to hear back from
> Christian regarding his ability to move forward if his membership were to
> be reinstated.
> *Google Hacking Inquiry*
> Regarding the Google Hacking inquiry, I have had a couple of phone calls
> now with Christian as well as one with Chris Gates (both recorded and
> you've been provided with links separately).  I've also been in contact
> with Jeff Williams, Dinis Cruz, Brad Causey, and Jason Li to talk about
> circumstances around the Google Hacking Inquiry.  There have been a few
> others whose names have come up that it may be pertinent to speak to (Chris
> Spencer and Andrew Vanderstock), but I'm confident that it won't change my
> advice here.  While I cannot go so far as to say that a great injustice has
> been done, I do think that I've found plenty of evidence to make me doubt
> the circumstances of the inquiry and it's benefit (or lack thereof) to
> Unfortunately, back then, there does not appear to have been much control
> over the projects.  There did not exist the new levels, but if I had to
> qualify it, I'd say that the Google Hacking Project fits squarely into the
> "Incubator" level of our new project classification.  The interesting thing
> about this level is that source code is NOT required.  To the contrary,
> this level is basically, "I have an idea, let's see if I can turn it into
> something real."  One of the deliverables for moving on to the next level
> is a working POC, but from the looks of it, one could remain in the
> "Incubator" bucket for up to a year without ever providing the source
> code.  And, assuming you did that, the consequence is to be de-listed from
> the "Incubator" bucket until you have a POC.  This makes 100% sense to me
> as it helps to foster ideas and provide support while still maintaining
> quality control over our projects.  Christian's claim is that he had his
> source code in an open repository, but never published a link because his
> project was never reviewed.  He provided at least one potential reviewer
> who was rejected at the time because they were not an OWASP member.  His
> attempts to find a reviewer who was an OWASP member were unsuccessful.  His
> presentations at the time did include a slide soliciting reviewers.  So, my
> conclusion here is that Christian did what would be expected of an
> "Incubator" level project.  Publishing source code probably shouldn't have
> been an expectation (at least not right off the bat) and the resulting
> "punishment" from the Inquiry was certainly harsher than today's standard.
> On top of the above, it is clear that Christian feels that the Inquiry has
> affected his ability to work as well as his general state of well being.
> If this is true, then it is in direct contradiction to the OWASP Code of
> Ethics where we state that OWASP members should not intentionally injure or
> impugn the professional reputation of our colleagues.  I don't think that
> it is rational for us to question whether this is or is not true, and
> therefore feel like our best course of action is to assume that it is and
> work to correct the situation.  My proposal is to remove the Google Hacking
> Inquiry document and any reference documentation as well that is on the
> OWASP public website.  In it's stead, I would like to place the following
> text:
> Recently, information has been brought to our attention which allows the
>> current OWASP Board to revisit OWASP's position on the Google Hacking
>> Inquiry that was undertaken in July of 2010.  The OWASP Code of Ethics<https://www.owasp.org/index.php/About_The_Open_Web_Application_Security_Project#Code_of_Ethics>states that we should not intentionally injure or impugn the professional
>> reputation of colleagues and, upon consideration, we feel that perpetuating
>> the inquiry results would do just that.  As such, we feel that it is in the
>> best interests of the OWASP Foundation and all concerned parties to wipe
>> the slate clean by removing the details of the inquiry from our public
>> records at this time.  We feel sincerely sorry for any damages that this
>> inquiry may have caused to any of the parties involved.
> Let me be absolutely clear that this is not what Christian requested, but
> rather, what I feel is the right thing to do given the circumstances.
> Christian's first question to me was "What good did the inquiry do for
> OWASP?" and my answer, unfortunately, is that I'm really not finding any.
> It chastised an active project leader for doing what it appears that
> several others were also doing at the time, potentially furthered personal
> biases, created negative feelings between Christian and OWASP, and just
> generally seems unfair to me.  I'm actually a bit ashamed that this inquiry
> has been allowed to linger for so long as it just perpetuates the things
> that we've done wrong, rather than all of the things that we've done
> right.  Regardless of how Christian or others feel about it, I believe that
> it's time to wipe the slate clean here and put an end to the negativity
> surrounding the inquiry.
> I'd like to propose a vote that we strike any reference to the Google
> Hacking Inquiry on owasp.org and our public documentation and replace it
> with the text above.
> *Request for Reinstatement*
> Unfortunately, our last call was cut short again with Christian dropping
> off the line.  I sent an e-mail to him attempting to reconcile our next
> steps, but I'm not sure that we are on the same page currently.  His desire
> is for OWASP to pursue another inquiry, similar to his own, charging Chris
> Gatford with being the individual behind the initial requests for inquiry
> and treating him as though he were an OWASP member as he was a chapter
> leader during that time.  I told him that I feel like the inquiry should
> not have been undertaken in the first place and that performing another
> inquiry and getting involved in a dispute between the two of them would
> serve no value to OWASP.  I have politely declined my support for such an
> initiative, but told him I would offer it to the other Board members if any
> of you are so inclined to pursue it further.
> Since I am unable to support his current request, and since he has stated
> that he is unable to move beyond this until this other inquiry has been
> performed, I am at a loss as far as next steps go.  My proposal would have
> been to do a 90 day probational membership reinstatement for Christian.
> Provided that there were no issues during this time period, I think that we
> could consider whatever level of activity he maintains a relative success
> and we should grant full membership.  However, if there were to be issues,
> the request for reinstatement should be denied with a permanent ban so that
> no future Board members need to brief themselves on the past in order to
> make a decision about the future.  My rationale for this rationale for this
> is based squarely upon the assumption that all negative behaviors were due
> to the Google Hacking Inquiry and it's personal affect on Christian.  A 90
> day probation should serve as a decent test to determine if he is willing
> to move beyond that and put the negativity behind us.  I am not requesting
> a vote at this time here as I feel no decision can be made without
> Christian's support for the path we take.  I will continue to work with him
> to hopefully come to a peaceful resolution.
> ~josh
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