Former NSA Director Keith Alexander says his services warrant a fee of up to a million dollars, due to a cyber-surveillance technique he and his partners at his new security firm IronNet Cybersecurity have developed, Foreign Policy reported on Tuesday. The claim follows reporting earlier this month that Alexander is slated to head a ‘cyber-war council’ backed by Wall Street.
Alexander claims that the new technology is different from anything the NSA has done as it uses “behavioral models” to predict hackers’ actions ahead of time.
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In his article, “The NSA’s Cyber-King Goes Corporate,” Foreign Policy journalist Shane Harris says that Alexander stated that IronNet has already signed contracts with three separate companies, although Alexander declined to name them. He plans on filing at least nine patents for the technology and finishing the testing phase of it by the end of September.
While it’s not uncommon for former government employees to be granted patents for their inventions, Alexander is thought to be the first ex-NSA director to apply for patents “directly related to the job he had in government,” said Harris.
“Alexander is on firm legal ground so long as he can demonstrate that his invention is original and sufficiently distinct from any other patented technologies,” according to Harris. Therefore when he files the patents, if he can prove that he “invented the technology on his own time and separate from his core duties, he might have a stronger argument to retain the exclusive rights to the patent.”
According to critics, Alexander’s very experience as the NSA director has informed his move to the corporate sector—whether or not he developed the technology independently—and that in itself is cause for alarm and a possible investigation.
“Alexander stands to profit directly off of his taxpayer-funded experience, and may do so with a competitive advantage over other competing private firms,” Carl Franzen pointed out at The Verge.
“Is it ethical for an NSA chief to pursue patents on technologies directly related to their work running the agency?” wrote Xeni Jardin of boingboing. “Will the Justice Department investigate? Don’t hold your breath.”
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