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Professor Klaus Brunnstein

Posted by on May 21, 2015.

Like many others in the security industry, I was sad to hear of the death of Professor. Dr. Klaus Brunnstein, who died on 20th May 2015, by my reckoning just a few days before his 78th birthday.

His name won’t mean much to most of my UK and US friends outside the security industry, though as Tommi Uhlemann suggested:

In Germany he’ll mostly be remembered for his fight for data protection in the 80’s. He played a leading role in having new laws in this field.

His political and academic activities went far wider than the anti-virus industry (as it was usually referred to then), but his direct contribution to the development of the security industry was in itself immense: it’s particularly hard for us in the anti-malware industry to imagine what the industry would be like if it hadn’t been for his wisdom and leadership.

Graham Cluley commented:

Klaus was an important and respected member of the anti-virus community, in particular during the 1990s when he ran the Virus Test Center at the University of Hamburg which was renowned for the quality of its tests, and helped produce some world-class experts who later benefited the industry.

Marko Helenius has his own memories of Klaus’s academic significance, and commented:

Sad news, indeed. I have warm memories from the beautiful day when he was the opponent of my dissertation and our guest here in Tampere in June 2002.

Professor Emeritus Pertti Järvinen of the University of Tampere adds:

I worked with prof. Klaus Brunnstein closely between 1990-1996 when he was a chairman of IFIP (International Federation of Information Processing) of TC9 (Technical Committee 9) Computers and Society and I was a secretary of TC9. He well managed all the affairs of TC9 and it was easy to write a minutes of TC9 meeting, because decisions were clear and well-formulated. I must only ask him more than once to check my draft. Klaus had already then too much work but he, however, succeeded nicely.

Later I used Klaus’ expertise as an opponent of Marko Helenius’ doctoral dissertation (A System to Support the Analysis of Antivirus Products’ Virus Detection Capabilities) and as a pre-examiner of Andro Kull’s doctoral dissertation (A Method for Continuous Information Technology Supervision: The Case of the Estonian Financial Sector)

His observations are a salutary reminder that Klaus’s legacy also lives on in the academic research of those that worked with him, as well as in the industry-facing groups in which he was so influential.

James Wolfe, long associated with EICAR, AVIEN, CME and the WildList Organization, said:

It’s been a while since I saw Klaus face to face. He was incredibly smart but his intellect was tempered with patience and understanding. He always provided remarkable insight into most subjects and his input will be missed. He was a Founding Father for us in the industry. He was also an amazing educator. Every time I’ve taught at University, I’ve tried to model my teaching style on his. This is very sad….

Prof. S.C. Bhatnagar, honorary adjunct professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, is founding chair of IFIP WG 9.4 on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries.  He told me:

Klaus Brunnstein was instrumental in the creation of the working group. He championed my proposal to create the group within the IFIP General Assembly. His heart was in the right place. He had never been to a developing country then, but he understood the special challenges faced by poorer countries in harnessing the power of ICT for development.

He was a warm person and a gracious host who held some TC 9 meetings on his personal yacht.

May his soul rest in peace.

Seiji Murakami, long associated with AVAR (The Association of Anti Virus Asia Researchers) said:

I would like to express my deepest condolences for prof. Brunnstein and his family.

I appreciate his great help and support to me and to the development of
antivirus industry in Asia in the early days.

Anti-virus pioneer Dr Alan Solomon observed:

Very few people will know his leading role in establishing CARO and the cooperation between the technical people at AV companies so that everyone who needed access to a virus library could safely share, which improved all AV products.

It had been hoped that he would be able to attend this year’s CARO workshop, but ESET North America CEO Andrew Lee observed:

Sadly missed, he wasn’t able to make it to the CARO conference a couple of weeks ago. I only met him a few times, but it was always memorable.

Although I only had the pleasure of meeting Klaus once in person, I communicated with him many times via email and worked with him on one or two EICAR projects, and like so many other people was struck by the depth and breadth of his knowledge and his unfailing helpfulness and courtesy. And I can also remember at the beginning of my career in security gathering a great deal of information about specific malware from the Virus Test Center.

Luca Sambucci says:

This saddens me so much. Klaus Brunnstein was the first person I got in contact with when I wanted to know more about computer viruses. It was I think 1990 and I was sixteen. I wrote him directly to his University and without much shame. He encouraged me to continue my research and I did so with enthusiasm. We stayed in touch for the next ten years or so.

Virus Bulletin today republished a 1996 interview with Klaus, in which he talked ‘about his background, his career, his views and his home life.’ But I’ll leave the last word to Aryeh Goretsky:

We had corresponded numerous times over the years when I was at McAfee Associates, and I really appreciated how he took time out of his schedule to explain not just various technical minutiae to me, but also discussing how the field was evolving.

I think it is sometimes hard to remember that the microcomputer security field is young enough that some of the people who pioneered it are still around.  The passing of pioneers like Yisrael Radai, Harold Highland and now Klaus Brunnstein underscores the fragility and change of that, though.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


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