What’s a RockStar anyways?

Dr Jeff Stanton
Dr. Jeff Stanton, InfoSec RockStar and damn good musician!

As I’ve said, this is a community project, so I’ve started a number of my talks asking people to yell out exactly what they think when they hear the word “Rock Star” – here are the most popular responses, with some discussion attached:

Extremely good at what they do

Yup, Rock Stars are damn good at what they do. Whether it is playing the guitar, computer forensics, or brain surgery, they are extremely good.

This is the “Geek” part, whether geek in context involves guitar playing, reading hexdumps, saving lives, analyzing logfiles, or even managing others.

And as we’ve said, although this “core competency” is essential, “Geek will only get you so far

Widely known/celebrity

You might be the best in the world, but if you only play guitar in your parents basement, or analyze hexdumps in private, or write code that never sees the light of day, so what? You have ZERO impact.

We will talk about some simple visibility strategies, even as simple as what name you use. No, I doubt you’ll change your name from “Bill Bailey” to “Axl Rose” or similar, but you do want a fairly unique and googleable name.

Writing this blog, giving talks on this topic, and putting together the (forthcoming) free InfoSec Rock Star is certainly already helping to get me better known as one example.

Stop by later to pick up a copy and sign up for our newsletter so we can tell you when the free ebook is done.


Rock Stars are widely respected for what they do. If you think about InfoSec, we have some very respected Rock Stars, and I have interviewed many of them and am getting input from many more.


Being a Rock Star is great for your career and your wallet.

I like money. I’d rather be unhappy and rich than unhappy and homeless. I’m pretty happy and I do OK financially.

Some of our real Rock Stars makes piles of money, and that is a good thing!

An Artist

Someone yelled this one out at my talk in Johannesburg, and it is true. Much of what we do is both science and art. There is a lot of creativity involved. Try Googling “art and science of infosec” – or just click on the previous link.

But it’s not necessarily all good:

Here are a few other characteristics of RockStars:

Perhaps controversial?

Many RockStars are controversial, and this is not necessarily bad. Controversy does get attention, and can have an impact.

Edward Snowden is controversial, and yes he has and is still having an impact. Now regardless what anyone may think of him, most of us are glad we are not hiding in exile!

Of course controversy can be bad also, and controversy just to get attention is usually useless (although sometimes effective certainly)


Nothing wrong with being great and knowing it, but  . . . Donald Trump does come off as an egotistical asshole to many as just one example.


We have a number of Rock Stars who are certainly one or two standard deviations from the mean. This is both in music, our field, and many other places.

Or course if they weren’t Rock Stars, they might just be plain weirdos!

Sex and drugs

In my talks on “Infosec Rock Star How to be a More Effective Security Professional” I get more questions and comments, only sometimes jokingly, on sex and drugs than any other topic, usually after the talk.

For the record: Yes and Yes, Women, Coffee/Alcohol

Wikipedia on “RockStars”

What does Wikipedia say? From its disambiguation page, it redirects to Celebrity, and text includes:

” . . . a person, who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is often synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.”

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    • Marg Stein
    • October 10, 2014

    In my mind a “Rock Star” in any field is someone who creatively pushes the limits and achieves incredible results

    • Tom H
    • February 3, 2015

    Eccentric and great at what they do come immediately to mind, and it seems you’ve covered all the bases – great one!

    Interesting how Wikipedia redirects immediately to celebrity

    • Ardy
    • April 14, 2017

    I think you nailed it Ted – hope to take your class in Minnesota this summer!

      • Ted Demopoulos
      • April 14, 2017

      See you there Ardy – it’ll be fun!

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