Keith Alexander is taking advantage of this. The International Business Times reported his argument that he’s done nothing wrong by using experience from his years as U.S. intelligence chief in the private sector. His move to IronNet, he claimed, was based on solid legal analysis. It turns out that the lawyers who determined this worked for him at the NSA. Consequently, we’re now told, Alexander’s recent applications for patents to establish ownership of his new cybersecurity programs are appropriate.
No matter how he argues it, however, Alexander’s commercial machinations represent conduct unbecoming. Robert Stoll, a former commissioner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office quoted by Bloomberg about the Alexander’s cybersecurity patent applications, pointed out: “There is a perception that if he’s just five months out, he did conceive of it (a cybersecurity program) while he was there.”
So there’s that. Then there’s this: Alexander needs to patent his breakthrough cybersecurity techniques because he has customers lined up to buy them. For a hefty fee. The clients are just who you might imagine they would be: The big banks Alexander spooked as NSA chief by telling them they were about to be the victims of terrifying and ruinous cyber-attacks. Just before he departed the NSA, Alexander told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “I urge you to consider the now daily reports of hostile cyber activity against our nation’s networks and appreciate the very real threat they pose to our nation’s economic and national security…” Last month, he spoke directly to Bloomberg about the vulnerability of U.S. banks: “If you can steal the data — if you can reach in that far and steal it — you can do anything else you want. You collapse one bank and our financial structure collapses.”