Mr. Paller’s pet project was the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation, which hosts hacking challenges. The idea was based in part on the example of China, which runs regular hacking competitions to identify its next generation of digital warriors.
“We have no program like that in the United States — nothing,” Mr. Pallerin 2013. “No one is even teaching this in schools. If we don’t solve this problem, we’re in trouble.”
His program offers college scholarship funds and free SANS trainings, with the goal of finding and developing 25,000 new “cyberstars” by 2025. Last year, Mr. Paller and Mr. Lyne rolled out a new game, CyberStart, which challenges students to track down cybercriminals, in exchange for $2 million in scholarship funds.
“People in this industry talk about public-private partnership all day, but I can only really think of four examples, and two of them came from Alan,” said Tony Sager, the former chief operating officer of the National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate, which oversees cyberdefense.
In 2001, Mr. Sager was at the N.S.A., working on Code Red, a computer virus that had just spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in a single day, when he received a call from Mr. Paller asking if anyone at the agency was addressing Code Red.
Mr. Sager was, but couldn’t discuss it. “I told him if I say no, I’m an idiot,” he recalled, so he replied, “Of course we are, Alan.”
Mr. Paller said he was running a conference in Washington of the best minds in industry. “He said: Come to this ballroom at 7 p.m. Bring anyone you want. We’ll have snacks.”