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

Josh Sokol josh.sokol at owasp.org
Fri Feb 14 05:01:28 UTC 2014


As always your advice and friendship is truly valued by me.  I want to
assure you that when Tobias and I drafted that message, it was with the
desire to remain relatively neutral in our stance on the issue, while at
the same time recognizing that the document serves no real purpose today
other than to be a continuous reminder of what I think we can all agree was
a negative all around experience.  Perhaps a bit more of an explanation for
the wording is in order here:

*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.*

This refers in large part to Christian's request for reinstatement.  His
desire to rejoin OWASP, coupled with the inexperience of three of the new
Board members, meant that we needed to revisit this situation in order to
make an educated decision on it.

*The OWASP 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.*

This is the same Code of Ethics that applies to all OWASP members and it
was written to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
>From Christian's statements, it is clear that he feels that the inquiry has
resulted in employment issues and has contributed to his emotional
detriment.  I don't think that it's our place to question whether this is
or is not the case so if he says this is true, then per our Code of Ethics,
we should refrain from any activity that would cause this.

*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. *

The Board desiring a clean start is by no means a denigration of activities
by the previous Board.  It is simply an acknowledgement that there may
currently be negative feelings on both sides of the fence that need to be
set aside in order to move forward in a positive fashion.  Removing the
inquiry, as you said, is meant to show others that it is no longer
relevant.  The problem is that we are a community founded on open
principles and without a statement in it's place, I'm concerned that people
will question whether we're hiding something or sweeping it under the rug.
I feel that acknowledging what happened, but questioning it's value going
forward is the best way to be open while also laying this issue to rest.

*We feel sincerely sorry for any damages that this inquiry may have caused
to any of the parties involved.*

I believe you when you say that you had no intention to damage Christian at
the time.  This isn't an attempt to fault you or place blame.  Even if you
accidentally bump someone with your cart at the store, you still say you're
sorry, don't you?

I hope that makes more sense to you now.  It's not an attempt to question
the past, but rather, an attempt to make a statement about how OWASP
intends to move forward.

As for your points about the many negative things that Christian has done,
you're right.  He's said and done some pretty awful things.  Much of it was
provoked, some probably not, but it's extremely difficult to excuse it.
That said, it's not entirely true that Christian hasn't expressed remorse
for some of the things he's said.  He did this to some extent on a call
that I had with him and he has said that he is willing to apologize.  But
yes, you're right, the current Board has to weigh his past, present, and
future actions and words against the subjective "What's best for OWASP and
it's community."  The jury is still deliberating on that one, but I do feel
that my proposed action on the inquiry document itself should happen
regardless of that decision.

Matt, thanks for contributing your thoughts and feelings to the
discussion.  You've got my number if you want to discuss further at any


On Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 9:22 PM, Matt Tesauro <matt.tesauro at owasp.org>wrote:

> Josh,
> 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
> him.
> 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
> information.
> 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>
> [1]
> http://lists.webappsec.org/pipermail/websecurity_lists.webappsec.org/2014-February/009002.html
> --
> -- Matt Tesauro
> OWASP WTE Project Lead
> http://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:OWASP_Live_CD_Project
> http://AppSecLive.org - Community and Download site
> OWASP OpenStack Security Project Lead
> https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_OpenStack_Security_Project
> 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
>> _______________________________________________
>> Owasp-board mailing list
>> Owasp-board at lists.owasp.org
>> https://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/owasp-board
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