McAfee Labs

In Memory of Peter Szor

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By on Nov 16, 2013

Nov. 20: Update with details of memorial service at the end of this post.

Earlier this week the security industry lost one of the pioneers of antimalware research, with the untimely death of Peter Szor. He was a Senior Director of Malware Research at McAfee but, more than that, he was a colleague and very good friend to all of us at McAfee Labs. In the past few days the words that have most frequently come to mind to describe him are very smart, very humble, and very caring.

 

Peter Szor

Peter Szor

I first met Peter in 1999 on a very cold winter night in Helsinki, Finland. He enthralled me with his vision for the industry, his depth of technical understanding, and his humility as he explained some very complex hooking and intercept techniques in a way that made it seem very simple. It was easy to understand why Peter had such a good feel for this field, as by then he had developed and supported one of the industry’s first antivirus products–Pasteur AntiVirus in Hungary from 1990-1995–and later was a lead virus researcher and engine developer at F-Secure.

Peter and I worked together for almost 13 years, first at Symantec and now at McAfee Labs, with only a short break in the middle. On a technical and professional level, he was a prolific researcher, author, surfer, and educator and holds more than 39 patents on computer security and antivirus research. He also wrote the best-selling book The Art of Computer Virus Research and Defense. He had a deep passion for his family, especially his son, Daniel, and loved to surf in the waters off Malibu and Newport Beach, California.

A few of Peter’s colleagues at McAfee Labs offered their thoughts:

“It is so very sad and I truly cannot take it in that we will not see Peter anymore–neither his friendly smile nor his insights into countless malware families which he analysed. He was a brilliant researcher and I am glad that his book will stay behind as his legacy and be a reminder for all of us of that brilliance. It will help to keep memory about Peter.”–Igor Muttik, from his blog on virusbtn.com

“The cyberworld has been a much safer place in the past 23 years thanks to Peter Szor. Not only because of Peter’s personal accomplishments, but because his book has helped inspire the malware security interests and careers of a new generation of cybersecurity professionals such as myself.”–Hiep Dang

“I am so very sad as I write this. I ‘met’ Peter Szor initially through his writings. If you were in any way involved in the world of antivirus, it was virtually impossible not to know who he was. Peter was a brilliant researcher but also possessed something else. Something, in fact, very few people have: the ability to communicate highly technical subjects in an understandable manner. Peter was also one of the kindest people I have known and worked with. He didn’t talk down to people ‘less’ brilliant than himself and he always seemed to be ready to help others with their ideas.

“I benefited from his wisdom and knowledge on more than a few occasions, and he always made time to chat or answer my questions. I remember how it felt to have him ask for my opinion. Me. Peter Szor asked for my opinion. It meant a lot. It still does. He knew so many things about malware research and he was always glad to discuss them, openly and with his characteristic humility. We discussed many things, but I will always remember his kindness and smile. I’ll miss those the most.”–David Marcus

We offer our sincere condolences to Peter’s family and friends. He will be buried at a private funeral in his native Hungary. Details for his memorial event in the United States are below.

We will remember Peter with great fondness and respect.

 

Memorial for Peter Szor

Monday, November 25, 11:30 am.

TeWinkle Park, Shelter #2, 970 Arlington Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Feel free to bring a blanket or chair. This park holds many good memories for Peter and his family. The family would like for those who wish to speak to be prepared to do so. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

If you would like to send flowers: 314/A 20th Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

 A memorial page has been set up. If you would like to donate money in lieu of flowers: http://peterszormemorial.tumblr.com/

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