About academic fraud


Image downloaded from Keble College Oxford’s web-page

I have done a presentation for a web-security firm in 2011. The presentation is here, and it is live, my voice and picture included. I talked to a crowded room. I was nervous but it went fine.

Recently, I needed to find a reference about Steve McQueen using the word scam for the first time. There was an interview, it was published in Time Magazine in 1963, but I couldn’t recall who the author of the article was. So I googled Steve McQueen and scam and Time Magazine. There was a hit and the wording seemed familiar. So I clicked on this link. If the link is removed, as I suppose it will be, after this becomes public, here is a screenshot of the page and here is the locally stored pdf (fun starts at third slide).

Interesting, right? Amon even took the pictures from my presentation, not only the text. I would be interested to know what the Royal Holloway has to say. I shall contact them later and post their reply here. If we ignore the first two slides, the only thing Amon did, was replace my name with his and changed the background. Not bad, right? Certainly much easier than going to the trouble of researching this.

Let’s look into Amon Sanniez, the plagiarist. Here is his linked-in page. It seems that years of expertise in security and in ownership (heh) have landed him a job a company that does pest control. He used to work for security firms and has lots of qualifications, but not much academic clout (a BSc was the end of the road). He does list my presentation as his publication on linked-in. Here is his blog. The subset of the things he writes about is in my field of expertise and he is not completely on the ball there. The things he writes about there are presented with a simplistic point of view and they are often bounded by a lack of knowledge of the field.

The biggest irony is that Amon replicated my presentation but I now know where I was mistaken and he does not. Several of the things I say are just plainly not true now, and were problematic then, but we (the real scientific community) didn’t know it at the time.

Oh well, best of luck with your future prospects Amon, I am not too bothered about you stealing my work, because I moved forward since, and you, well, not so much.

Note: this is what I sent to the Royal Holloway:


Name is dr. David Modic, I am a research associate at the Security Group, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge. I apologize for simply contacting you out of the blue, but I think you should be aware of the following:

In June 2011 I gave a talk at BAFTA for the company Websense on the topic of Psychology of Internet Fraud. Here is a link to my talk: https://www.websense.com/assets/webinars/speakup/speakup-live/psychology-of-scams/ (with my photo and audio narration).

Two days ago I was looking for a specific reference and I googled it. I found the reference in a presentation by Amon Sanniez, here: https://www.isg.rhul.ac.uk/dl/weekendconference2011/presentations/Amon-Sanniez–The-Psychology-of-Scams-and-Malware.pdf

When I looked a bit closer, I realized that this was my reference and the whole thing to be a direct copy of my presentation with only my name replaced and the template background changed. The first two slides are not mine, but all the others are, word for word, including the clipart. Feel free to check both links above.

 I looked at the event and it turns out it was held by the Royal Holloway Security Group in September 2011, if I understand correctly. The slides are hosted on the Royal Holloway pages. Your group was of course not to know that Amon Sanniez plagiarised my research and in the grand scheme of things it does not matter much anyway, but I thought you should be aware of this. If you paid anything to the presenters you were also scammed, in a sense. I guess there is irony in talking about fraud by committing academic fraud. I also realize that mr. Sanniez has no affiliation with RHUL.

Anyway, I just thought you should know. I don’t have any expectations about what happens next, it is completely up to you if you want to pursue it in any way. Please note that if I found plagiarized work hosted by Royal Holloway in about 30s  through google, others might too, and that may reflect badly on the RHUL, even though I don’t think any of this is in any way the security group’s or the University’s fault.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Kindest regards,

— David


[replaced malicious code]

About David Modic (admin)

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2 Responses to About academic fraud

  1. Amon Sanniez says:

    Hello David Modic,

    As a way of introduction to your audience I am the alleged plagarist Amon Sanniez. I shall attempt to provide you with some needed context below.

    Whilst working as a security researcher for Websense, I had the opportunity to step in as a last minute replacement for my then manager (the head of department(WSL)), to guest lecture at RHUL (due to conflicts in scheduling). Considering the time constraint, a simple change was made to a deck of slides provided for the engagement circa a name change as evidenced within the deck you referenced. The lecture from my recollection went well as it was fascinating for me as a presenter and also beneficial to the MSc students as whole (having gained an insight into some of the work the security researchers within WSL did).

    I appreciate your article was published a while back and you did so with the evidence you had. I am also not attempting to challenge or claim ownership of your work however, might the case have been that you presented your findings to Websense and agreed for this to be shared or other? I am guessing the reason this slide deck was created, must have had something to do with this? I also expect your view must have been somewhat skewed/blurred as you took the approach to attack my character ignoring some rationale. Regardless of this, I am easy to find and you could have made contact of which, I would have happily obliged and provided you with what had transpired or the least my account of events.

    To provide you with some clarity, the guest lecturing for RHUL was not paid for nor did I request any reimbursement for my time. I also did not take any credit for the slides as they were not ones I created (I vividly recall this as I used it as part of my ice breaker, stating you only got a substitute as opposed to the star).

    In my tenure within the WSL team, it was the norm to step in for any of the team members on short notice.

    Your post albeit an interesting and a well written piece seemed quite targetted to discredit me as a professional and somewhat attacking my character as an individual within society. Not having crossed paths, I can only assume this attack was based on what little you gathered off the internet to launch your attack. Hindsight being a great growth tool I believe might have changed your approach to matters as in my opinion, you could have made contact with myself or Websense to have a complete set of evidence to make your article factual.

    In anyway, I believe you missed an opportunity here as you could have educated your readers on what you might have got wrong and make the wider security profession much better with your knowledge, skills and expertise as opposed to the singular focus on discrediting my character.

    I hope the above provides you with some context.

    NB: shameless plug to say thank you to my mentee for googling my name and finding this interesting article.

    • Hi Amon,

      Thank you for publicly admitting that you stole my stuff and attempted to pass it as your own. There is no “alleged” dilemma here. Since I do not really have time for plagiarists, and since this is my personal blog, where I, by default, write my opinion, not an employer sanctioned party line, let me be very short and blunt.

      There is no need to contact people who steal someone else’s work and pass it as their own regardless of what they have to say. You really expect me to debate you on what constitutes plagiarism and whether you had appropriate reasons to steal my stuff? Google it, if you do not understand how authorship works.

      I did indeed allow Websense to use my presentation, I remember that well, I actually told someone at the venue at the time (was it you?) that they are free to use my presentation while properly crediting me. There is no issue with that at all. However, using my findings and crediting me (as I did in my presentation for others) does not equate to taking my stuff and presenting it as your own. Honestly, are you five years old? Why do you expect me to explain to you why stealing is bad? And why you can never take away the moral rights to someone’s work, regardless of what kind of permission you secure. This is like going to a concert, listening to a band (e.g. Rolling Stones) and afterwards asking them whether you could play your songs at your “party”. They say sure (let’s pretend they would), and you go and hold a concert pretending, say, Sympathy for the Devil is your song. Allowing you to use someone’s work, does not make you its author.

      Not earning any money (but I pretended to be you for free, so that must be ok!, you say), does not make stealing ok. You say, you told the audience that you are presenting my stuff? Well, crediting me would be even better, which would prevent me from wondering whether you only steal other peoples research or also lie about stealing it.

      Keep it real, mate and good luck pretending that people who point out your unethical behaviour are the ones who hurt your character in the eyes of others.

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