Steve, an internationally recognized expert on IT crime and cyber-terrorism, died peacefully in hospital on 12 January from complications following heart surgery.
Tributes to him have begun pouring in on social media from across the security and journalist communities.
Steve first came to national prominence in the mid-1980s when he and fellow journalist Robert Schifreen, exploring the limits of technology, hacked BT’s Prestel communications service and famously accessed the personal message box of Prince Philip.
The two were subsequently convicted at Southwark Crown Court on charges under the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act, but successfully appealed and were acquitted on the basis that they had not obtained any material gain from their exploits.
Their case led directly to the introduction of the 1990 Computer Misuse Act, and Steve went on to detail the case in the Hackers’ Handbook, of which he co-wrote later editions with Professor Peter Sommer. He even spoke at conferences alongside arresting officers in the case.
Steve subsequently resumed his near 30-year career as a prolific cyber-security, communications and technology journalist.
He helped to found SC Magazine, the world’s first dedicated IT security news publication, in 1994 and was then news editor of SC for 12 years.
At the time of his death, he was a regular contributor to SC Magazine, as well as group editor of Cloud Computing World and Netcomms Europe, and editor of Lawtech Magazine. He also lectured regularly on criminal psychology and cyber-crime.
He was also a former editor of IT Security Pro and technical editor of Infosecurity Magazine, and wrote on a freelance basis for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Times.
Professor John Walker, Director of CSIRT and Cyber Forensics at Cytelligence Ltd, said of Steve: “This is so very sad. I became aware of Steve way back in his early days of hacking, and I purchased his book. Then one day I got lucky and met the man – nice guy, friendly, and over the years I formed a very close friendship with him, as did many others who came into his company.
“He is a sad loss to his family, his friends, and to all those who ever met him. People like Steve don’t come along that often, and I doubt I will ever meet another like him in my lifetime. Today the world became a much darker place for many who were touched by this very nice chap.”
Sarb Sembhi, consultancy services director at Incoming Thought and a leading light in the ISACA security professionals organisation, said: “Steve was one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry, with a great background of understanding the issues from all perspectives.
“He was a genuine technology enthusiast, who actually tried out much of the security he wrote about. His friendly approach, sense of humour, empathy and kind manner will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Illena Armstrong, vice president of editorial at SC Magazine, recalled her first interaction with Gold upon joining the publication.
“When I joined SC years ago, Steve was one of the first reporters I befriended at the publication,” Armstrong said. “His IT security savvy was legend. Even more storied, perhaps, was his willingness to provide a lending hand, background knowledge, whatever might be needed, really, to virtually anyone who asked. Yet, even this well-known trait likely competed a bit with his uncanny ability to induce welcome chortles with his witty, sometimes self-deprecating humor at just the right moments.
“He and I have kept in touch over these many years, and when we were looking to infuse our SC UK brand with a new vigor, he’s one of the first pros I called. Luckily for us, he was back working with SC again, reliably turning in well-researched, interesting and objective news and tips to us almost daily. A proud self-proclaimed IT geek, Steve was a seasoned and disarming journalist but, most importantly, an abidingly trustworthy friend and colleague. I’ll miss him.”
Tony Morbin, editor-in-chief at SC Magazine, said: “I first met Steve in the early 1990’s at Computer News Middle East where Steve was my industry insider, or as he described himself, ‘self-confessed propellerhead’, who would explain the implications of new developments that I might not have grasped. It was typical of his enthusiasm to spread his knowledge and help others get as excited about communications technology as he was himself.
Working with Steve on several other publications over the years Steve continued to provide insight into info-security as it applied to various industry sectors. Then, most recently, on joining SC I was delighted to again have Steve on hand, not only as a reliable, prolific news journalist, but also a humourous friend and trusted adviser.”
Tracey Caldwell, a long-standing journalist colleague of Steve’s and editor of Biometric Technology Today, said: “Steve was a lovely man and a character – he stood out from the crowd at IT industry events with his distinctive musical notation braces. He always had great stories to tell as well as being passionate and super-knowledgeable about the latest in technology. I will miss him.”
Steve Mansfield-Devine, another long-standing journalist colleague, and editor of Network Security and Computer Fraud & Security, said: “I’ve known Steve both as a friend and a colleague for nearly three decades. And what always impressed me was his reliability — not just as a journalist who could get the story, but as a friend who could be counted on for his generosity and largeness of spirit.
“I’ve never known anybody else capable of maintaining so many relationships, professional and personal – and that came from his immense capacity for empathy as well as an engaging mischievous streak. I’ll miss all of that. “
Steve is survived by his wife and son.