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Complaint Against Thomas Ptacek

Complaint Against Thomas Ptacek

Mar 5, 2016 5 minutes to read

Addendum: Thomas Ptacek has seen this post and claims that I am lying, without clarifying how. He has refused to present an apology. I fully stand behind this post as a completely truthful account that does not omit any facts.

I was hoping that the next post on my personal website would be technical. Specifically, I was hoping to discuss a major software rewrite that Im working on, and I regret that this discussion has to wait.

I am compelled out of necessity to write this post detailing my accusation and cry for help against Thomas Ptacek, a fellow member of the computer security community. Thomas Ptacek is an obsessive abuser, a bully, a slanderer and an employer of public verbal sexual degradation that he defends, backs down on and does not apologize for. Thomas Ptacek has been bullying me and slandering me in front of colleagues, behind my back and in public, for more than three years. I have never complained until his bullying crossed into public sexual degradation yesterday. I must now say something, because the situation with him is becoming absolutely unacceptable. (If you dont know who Thomas Ptacek is, use Google. His personal history is irrelevant to this post.)

First off, I need to clarify: I have never spoken with Thomas Ptacek. I have never met Thomas Ptacek. I dont know Thomas Ptacek. I genuinely have no idea what Thomas Ptacek looks like or sounds like. I know almost nothing about him and literally all of my attempts to contact him were emails asking him to please explain why he acts the way he does towards me.

Since at least 2013, Thomas Ptaceks bad form has been largely limited to intentionally causing me routine undeserved professional humiliation by exagerating professional issues into personal attacks and going from there to exploit the opportunity for maximum damage. In addition, Thomas Ptacek has, at every opportunity presented to him, maliciously misrepresented the quality of my work, taking sometimes-legitimate security problems and inflating them inaccurately. This is bad form, but it isnt the end of the world. However, here is how he has gone overboard, and why Im resorting to this post.

Last summer, I was helping my team prepare what would end up being my first co-publication as a Ph.D. student. Given its topic, we decided to submit it at the 2015 USENIX Workshop for Offensive Technologies. This seemed like a great venue, and while we were excited to finish the paper, I actually had to go express my discomfort to my thesis advisor when I saw that Thomas Ptacek was chairing the workshops program committee.

I had been a victim of Thomas Ptaceks bullying for so long that I had to go talk to my advisor and say that submitting to a conference with Ptacek as the chair made me uncomfortable, and I almost asked that my name be removed from the paper because of how much anxiety the prospect of submitting a paper at his workshop caused. The pleasant surprise is that our paper ended up winning the workshops Best Paper Award. Subsequently, although he was the chair, the entire workshop was not attended by Thomas Ptacek. I was actually looking forward to meeting him at the workshop and to try to befriend him and understand his problem with me, and sent an email apologizing for not being able to find him. I did not hear from him at all since the paper was published in August 2015, which was a pleasantly long break.

Yesterday, Thomas Ptacek posted on Twitter (to his 16,000+ followers) a joke, explicitly about me, that was grossly sexual. Given not only his past history of unwarranted abuse but also the new fact that this is the guy at whose workshop Ive published a paper, I was quite shocked and offended by this, and tweeted a polite but strong-worded request for an immediate apology. In response, Thomas Ptacek tweeted that I should go fuck myself.

Thomas Ptacek then claimed, for the first time, that there was a strictly personal motive, behind his three+ years of public humiliation and now sexual degradation. Despicably, even though a large chunk of his humiliation has been targeted at me profesionally, he insists his problem with me is strictly personal. But he did not explain this motive, and the very fact that he even claims to have some kind of problem with me is absurd to the point of seriously making me suspect some kind of mental illness. How could he have some problem with me when Ive never met him? Never spoken with him? Never worked with him? Ive never even worked with anyone whos worked with him. Im a complete stranger to him. And how could any problem with me warrant his abuse anyway? Why hasnt he responded to my requests for either an explanation or an apology?

I have absolutely no idea why Thomas Ptacek is obsessed with me. I have never wronged this man or even interacted with him. I thought it was something to do with him not liking my software, but now that he insists his motive is personal, I am deeply confused and in all honesty frightened.

Until Thomas Ptacek publicly apologizes for his years of abuse and degradation, I want to make a few points absolutely clear:

  1. If you continue to work with Thomas Ptacek, I will not work with you. If you continue to speak with Thomas Ptacek, I will not speak with you. You are encouraging and, worse, legitimizing an abuser, a sexual degrader, and a bully in our security community.

  2. If you consider having Thomas Ptacek on your conferences program committee, consider that he will post sexually degrading tweets on his Twitter account, completely unjustified, even about the people who win Best Paper awards at his own workshops. When confronted, he will tell you to go fuck yourself instead of apologizing.

I have had absolutely enough of Thomas Ptacek. I have taken three years of relentless, unabashed, shameless and routine abuse from this man Ive never met. Ive had it up to my nose with him. This post will be updated once he issues an apology (and Im not the first to ask) and promises to leave me alone.

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