An Interview with George Dobbs, Board Member and Chairman of the IDPro Body of Knowledge Committee
Last month, we sat down with Heather Flanagan, Body of Knowledge Editor for IDPro. This month, as we continue our series of posts “Getting to Know IDPro,” we interviewed George Dobbs, Board Member and Chairman of the IDPro Body of Knowledge Committee. George shared his experience in the identity industry, why IDPro is so important to the ecosystem, and much more.
IDPro: Can you share a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the identity industry?
George: I took a math major in college and got an opportunity to work on computing jobs for the school administration. It was remote computing in the sense of dial-up with an acoustic modem. That led to a job with a company that sold computing time with a similar set up. Back then, companies would pay high fees to get access to storage and computing. When microprocessors became powerful enough for basic tasks, there was a demand for the skills needed to set up basic computing tasks based on such devices as the TRS-80 and eventually the first IBM PC. After a five-year stint as self-employed, I moved to an insurance company where I got involved with local area networking (LAN). Novell Netware 2.x was all the rage at that time and that was my first exposure to digital identity. As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, the bindery turned into a directory. In the 90’s the Novell packet technology and directory were overtaken with TCP/IP and Microsoft’s Active directory. I got involved then setting up gateways and firewalls. Eventually it came time to have customer and agent logins to websites. This was a new use-case that gave me the opportunity to design and build and as I moved on to another company, there was a reprise of the project. At a third company the same need came around again, but by the 2010’s the nature of the project was heavily influenced by defensive needs; financial institutions, through the internet, had become regular targets for fraud.
IDPro: What brought you to IDPro and what prompted you to join the organization?
George: I first got involved with others in the identity space with the Network Application Consortium in the late 90’s. That’s where I first heard of the Jericho project and the concept of identity as the new perimeter. I think the concept was done a disservice by the terrible name – “boundaryless computing” – that someone came up with, but the idea was prescient. Boundaries and zones remain part of the toolkit but identity has become a key aspect of security. So when I heard Ian and Sarah call those at the Cloud Identity Summit to action, I figured the need for protection from fraud and other attacks is a good reason for collective action, so I joined IDPro.
IDPro: Can you explain your role in IDPro?
George: I’ve been a board member since the first board was seated. It seemed clear that the most important thing to take on was the Body of Knowledge so I helped by framing how that would work in our organization and forming a committee of which I have been the only chair to date. We drafted a “table of contents” and defined a process to find and select the Principal Editor which was accomplished about 18 months ago when we found Heather. Heather has met and exceeded our expectations, so my role has changed from first mover to something more akin to guide or coach.
IDPro: Why do you think IDPro is important for the identity industry and ecosystem?
George: My first response is that the very notion of an identity industry is only now being incorporated into mainstream thinking. In the past, if it was thought of at all, it was as part of the “information security” domain. There have been many attempts to improve the identity landscape over the years but what IDPro attempts to provide is a big tent into which all sorts of topics and roles relating to the identity industry can fit and be knit together. Hopefully this allows players from government, industry, education and even concerned citizens, to provide foundational knowledge for the next generation and – perhaps more importantly – provide guidance to society as a whole as we move more fully into the inevitably digital future.