History

Being a partial, subjective, and incomplete History of the Vancouver Security Special Interest Group (SecSIG), subject to the memory failings of one Robert M. Slade (no longer a CISSP), and edited by Orvin Lau (still a CISSP).

The Vancouver Security Special Interest Group (SIG) started in 1983 as an attempt, by the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), to start a security SIG. (You may have heard real old-timers refer to the “CIPS SIG.”) CIPS did not provide much support. About a half dozen Vancouver SIG members did belong to CIPS, but, from the beginning, non-CIPS attendees were welcome.

(As an interesting side note, CIPS did try to restart their security SIG with a newsletter around the 1991 time frame. At that time they started printing, in the security newsletter, without permission or attribution, a series of articles by Rob Slade, who was a member of the Vancouver SIG, but had never been a member of CIPS.)

Throughout the 1980s there was very little formal structure. No fees were ever assessed for membership or meetings. Roughly six to ten members would attend, generally monthly, at meetings or board rooms that various members could book in their companies. Often there was no “official” speaker or presentation, and many meetings were simply discussions of various security issues the members faced. Ron Johnson (now retired from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch), though not a “charter” member, was the nominal coordinator through many of the early years. He was strong support for the SIG for over three decades, even though security was only an add-on to his job description, and he never really liked it! Later in the 80s, Manny Masongsong took over as president and ran a more formal structure. At that time attendance at meetings was between 20 and 30. (As an interesting side note, CIPS did try to restart their security SIG with a newsletter around the 1991 time frame. At that time they started printing, in the security newsletter, without permission or attribution, a series of articles by Rob Slade, who was a member of the Vancouver SIG, but had never been a member of CIPS.)

The Vancouver Security SIG (or SecSIG) was the earliest information security community in Vancouver. It acted as an incubator for a number of other groups and is sometimes referred to as the “grandfather” security group in Vancouver. ISACA, ISSA, the now-defunct ISMS group, and even MARS got their start from people who met at the SecSIG. During the mid-to-late 1990s, these various groups worked together to start and maintain the West Coast Security Forum, an annual conference (held in November) that grew to a successful and well-attended four-day annual event. During this time the executive, with members such as Joost Hooven, Geordie Cree, Sherry Grey, Ryan Liu, Tina Yeo, and others, did double duty running the SIG and the WCSF. Profits from the conference were shared among the groups, and the SIG used them to rent lecture theatres at SFU’s downtown campus to hold meetings. Eventually, this double demand in time proved too much, and the WCSF was turned over to Reboot Communications in 2006, which managed to kill the WCSF within two years.

Around the 2000 time frame, the SIG agitated for (ISC)² to bring a couple of CISSP seminars to the Vancouver area. A number of members took advantage of this to get their certifications at that time.

The decade following Y2K was a difficult time for the SIG, possibly due to the fact that Rob Slade was president for far too long. Meetings were uneven: there were years when we only had a couple of meetings, and meetings where we only had a couple of attendees. (On the other hand, we had some of our largest meetings at that time, with attendance over 120.) Agora, in Seattle, had formed, and there were regular expeditions of SIG members to those meetings. (Agora and the SIG always had similar principles: no fees, no formal existence, and a kind of variant of the Chatham House Rules in terms of confidentiality.)

Around the 2010 time frame, (ISC)² evolved from being solely a certification body, and proposed local (ISC)² Chapters. By 2011, the Vancouver ISSA Chapter was meeting with SecSIG, and the ISMS group had rejoined the SecSIG as a committee, which at the time was responsible for one “special” (and extended) meeting per year (usually an all-day meeting in January, on ISMS topics). Orvin Lau, as president, worked tirelessly to produce the necessary paperwork and executive structure to form an (ISC)² Chapter, which also “co-meets” with SecSIG.

Subsequently, under presidents Chester Wisniewski and Stan Engelbrecht, the SecSIG has grown to regular attendance of 40 to 80 members per meeting. Lloyd Jura, as the program chair, has provided a steady stream of venues and speakers on a monthly basis. The SecSIG, aided by “external affairs” chair Tanya Bangayan, still participates in and supports other security events in Vancouver, such as the MARS’s BSides Vancouver, ISACA Vancouver’s BC Aware campaign, the provincial government’s BC Security Day remote and others, as well as welcoming students and mentoring those entering the profession. (At various times, the SecSIG has attempted to support meetings in other parts of the province, at one time holding telephone teleconferences with groups in Victoria, and later, under George Pajari, webcasting the meetings.)