Steve Gold, RIP

One of the hardest parts of being in the relationship business is losing good people.
Every day I am reminded of the people who have had a positive influence on me, those who have taught me vital lessons that I use on a daily basis, the people whose impact remains with me long after they’ve departed. Information security expert, Steve Gold, was all of those. Today marks the first anniversary of his death, but his influence is still felt today.

As he was fond of telling me, Steve was one of the original (ethical) hackers for whom the Computer Misuse Act 1990 was drafted, after he and fellow journalist, Robert Schifreen, demonstrated the insecurities of the BT Prestel network by using an easily-guessed password to access Prince Philip’s Prestel message box in 1984. Both journalists were prosecuted under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. However, their convictions were overturned on appeal, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence that they had attempted to materially gain from the hack. Legal experts subsequently agreed that the journalists’ information security experiment should never have been prosecuted under the 1981 Act and that the law needed to be updated to prosecute such cases.

In spite of his towering reputation, Steve Gold was a gentle character, quick to forgive and unfailingly polite. A man of many talents, Steve was formerly a nurse and an accountant, prior to becoming a technology journalist.

It is perhaps because of this earlier role in the NHS that he was so approachable. While some of his contemporaries appeared to relish their reputations for being aloof, or downright scary if approached by insufficiently prepared PRs, Steve was always patient and understanding, even when the  inevitable hiccup occurred. I still cannot dial my conference call number without hearing his cheery “these things happen,” after my hastily typed email resulted in a missing digit that locked him out of an interview for a few minutes.

Instead of protecting his turf, Steve was always encouraging towards junior employees who were just finding their feet. When my Sheffield-based nephew (born the same year that the Computer Misuse Act was passed) asked for advice on becoming a journalist after completing his PhD, it was Steve that I turned to and he gladly passed on his tips on getting academic articles published.

My last conversation with Steve was in November 2015, just before he went into hospital, when he cheerily requested a case study from my “Irish client,” for Networks Ireland, which he was editing, alongside his many other editorial roles. At the time, we didn’t even have a case study, but his unexpected request elicited a story that highlighted everything that was good about my client’s offering. We worked hard to meet his deadline, but after I sent the case study back to Steve in December 2014 there was an uncharacteristic silence. After a fortnight, I saw a Facebook post from a journalist letting everyone know that Steve was in the ICU in Sheffield Hallamshire. He died a few days later on 12th January 2015, just three days before his birthday.

After Steve’s case study was published in Networks Ireland, I submitted it for a number of award schemes in 2015, six to be precise. Every time my client won another award, I raised a toast to Steve and said another thank you.

That story lasted an entire year. Each time I read the case study, or see an award that it generated, or see a link to one of Steve’s many, many articles, I’m thankful for having the privilege of meeting this charming, clever and generous man.

Rest in peace Steve, you were a gentleman and a gentle man and you are still missed in the information security, journalist and PR communities. 

Steve Gold, journalist, technology enthusiast, true gent, 15th January 1956 – 12th January 2015

Tributes to Steve Gold: