McAfee loses two key suits

Insecurity outfit McAfee, which was bought by chip giant Intel, has lost two key staff members just as the outfit is expected to release a new generation of security products.

Worldwide chief technology officer George Kurtz, who helped lead the company’s product strategy, will clean out his desk by the end of this month.

He follows Vice president Dmitri Alperovitch, who is a highly regarded threat researcher whose work at the company helped give it a reputation for conducting cutting-edge research on hacking. He slipped out the back door recently and no one noticed.

Alperovitch led a research team that produced several high-profile studies on suspected Chinese-government backed hackers and he coined the term “Operation Aurora” to describe attacks suspected by Chinese hackers on Google and several dozen other companies.

He was last seen in the press when his team discovered “Operation ShadyRAT,” which was one of the world’s biggest cyber attacks, and which involved the infiltration of the networks of 72 organisations including the United Nations, governments and companies around the world. According to AP, he is continuing to do a bit of work for McAfee as a consultant.

The lack of the two heavyweights was noticed when they were not on the speakers list at the company’s annual security conference, Focus 2011.

Speculation is that the pair are not happy about Intel’s involvement with China. McAfee has a operations in China, but its new owner, Intel, has a much bigger manufacturing and marketing presence behind the bamboo curtain. ShadyRAT pointing the finger at China must have caused a few problems for Chipzilla. The fact that Alperovitch never openly pointed the finger at China for some of the cyber espionage cases might have more to do with Intel than what he actually wanted to say.

McAfee’s co-presidents Todd Gebhart and Mike DeCesare told AP that the two roles have been filled internally. David Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs, has assumed a large part of Alperovitch’s responsibilities, while Stuart McClure, co-author of the best-selling security book Hacking Exposed: Network Security Secrets & Solutions with George Kurtz, will take over much of Kurtz’s work.