Richard Thieme

Strategies for Playing Through the Pain: The Impact of Dark Knowledge on Security Professionals and the Road to Resilience

The distinction between information security and intelligence work has pretty much eroded. The boundary that used to define those identities is now a wavering fractal coastline with a thousand inlets and bays.

And both domains include impacts that can only be called traumatic.

The real cost of security work and professional intelligence goes beyond dollars. It is measured in family life, relationships, and mental and physical well-being. The divorce rate is high, for good reason – how can relationships be based on openness and trust when one’s primary commitments make truth-telling and disclosure difficult or impossible? How can one stay steady when the primary task is to defend the entire internet?

Richard Thieme has for years listened to people in pain because of the compelling necessities of their work, the consequences of their actions, the misfiring of imperfect plans, and the burdens of soul-wrenching experiences. “Moral harms,” too, is a category migrating from the military into security work. Our very identities can be blindsided by unanticipated consequences and events.

This talk is about the real facts of the matter as Thieme has gathered them over 25 years of close collegial relationships with security and intelligence professionals and the strategies that provide for effective responses that manage the pressures of our work. Resilience is not an option, it is a measure of our strength and health.

Richard Thieme ( is an author/professional speaker who addresses challenges posed by new technologies, how to redesign ourselves to meet these challenges, and creativity in response to radical change. Her has spoken professionally about these issues for 25 years and has written five books, hundreds of articles, and numerous short stories. He spoke at Def Con 26 for the 23rd year and includes NSA, the Secret Service, the FBI, and the US Department of the Treasury among his clients, as well as Microsoft, Medtronic, GE, and numerous security venues.

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