F. Lynn McNulty
F. Lynn McNulty

A 30-year veteran of government information security, Frederick "Lynn" McNulty died on June 4 after a bout with lymphoma. He was 73.

A trade publication, Federal Computer Week, called McNulty “an early champion of information security in the government.” He had served as the first director of information systems security with the U.S. Department of State and held similar roles at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In the late 1960s and early 70s, McNulty "was a true trailblazer in the field of information security," according to a statement sent to SCMagazine.com on Wednesday that was signed by Robert Bigman and "Lynn's many friends in the U.S. government."

"As multiprocessing mainframe computers and networks began to break out of their glass-enclosed centers in the 1970s, [McNulty] was among the first to recognize the corresponding need for stronger data security protections," said the letter from Bigman, president of 2BSecure, a Washington, D.C.-area computer and network security company, and his collaborators.

McNulty was born in Alameda, Calif., and earned a bachelor's degree in 1961 from the University of California at Berkeley and master's degrees from San Jose State University and George Washington University in the early 1970s. He served as an Army reservist from 1963 until 1999, including four years of active duty in the 1960s, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, according to published reports.

In his government career at the FAA and State Department, McNulty brought best practices and technology into information system strategy and operations, stressing that it was essential to use policy to affect change and to incorporate security as a regulatory requirement in business operations, Bigman said.

At the 2010 (ISC)² Government Information Security Leadership Awards (GISLAs), a program that honors the work of federal information security leaders, McNulty served as a judge and continued his advocacy on behalf of the information security field:

"President Obama has correctly focused on cyber security as a high-priority program, and this means that events like GISLA are even more important because they bring people from both government and industry together to recognize people that are doing great things in the information security field," he said to an interviewer. "I think it even makes the profession much more attractive and much more highly visible than it has been in the past and, hopefully, will increase into the future."

McNulty's contributions to the information security field are "woven into the DNA of almost every government information security policy and program," Bigman wrote, adding that his strategic initiatives became a model within the federal government and served as the basis for such subsequent regulations as The Computer Security Act of 1987, which established minimum acceptable practices for securing personal information held on federal computer systems.

Until his retirement in 1995, McNulty was "one of the most vocal advocates for the advancement of information security policy and programs in the U.S. government," Bigman said.

After his 30-year stretch in government service ended in 1995, McNulty worked for a number of security companies, including RSA and McConnell International, and as an independent consultant. As well, he served in a number of positions at (ISC)², a global, nonprofit education and certifying organization for information security professionals. He served on its board and was a director of government affairs and co-chairman of the U.S. government advisory board.

"Lynn was a great friend and one reason I stayed in government for 30 years," Bigman told SCMagazine.com on Friday.

"I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Lynn through (ISC)²," Mano Paul, the software assurance advisor at the organization, wrote to SCMagazine.com on Friday. "Lynn was a leader and true champion of information security and the GISLA. He will be truly missed."

McNulty is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, two daughters, a brother and three grandchildren.