James Dolan (computer security expert)

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James Dolan
Born(1981-07-20)July 20, 1981
DiedDecember 27, 2017(2017-12-27) (aged 36)
Other namesJames S. Dolan
OccupationComputer security expert
Years active1999-2017
OrganizationFreedom of the Press Foundation
Known forCo-developer of SecureDrop

James S. Dolan (July 20, 1981 – December 27, 2017) was an American computer security expert who, with Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen, co-developed SecureDrop, a widely used secure digital platform for sources to anonymously submit materials to journalists.[1]

Early life[edit]

Dolan grew up in Chester, New York. He grew up with four sisters. He went to school at the Tuxedo Park school and was considered gifted at an early age. Later, he moved to Brooklyn, which is where he called home[2] and Chester, New York.


From 1999 to 2006, Dolan served with the Marines in two deployments during the Iraq War where he worked as a data network specialist.[2] In 2003, Dolan served with III Marine Expeditionary Force[citation needed] during the initial Iraq War. In his second deployment, which was from September 2004 to March 2005,[2] Dolan served with 4th Civil Affairs Group in Fallujah,[citation needed] which was one of the centers of the conflict at that time. Dolan was in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury, part of the Second Battle of Fallujah.[2]

Trevor Timm from the Freedom of the Press Foundation referenced Dolan's military service in his description of Dolan in the obituary he wrote, saying that the impact of serving in Iraq was an often spoke of motivating factor for Dolan's cybersecurity work, with the goal of making metadata "transparent and accountable."[1]

After his service in the Iraq War, Dolan worked in computer security at a large IT company.[3]

In 2012, as a side project to his IT job, Dolan helped develop the open source SecureDrop, initially known as DeadDrop.[4] In 2013, Poulsen and Dolan moved it to the Freedom of the Press Foundation to ensure its continued development and adoption following the death of fellow developer Aaron Swartz.[5][6] Dolan was the lead maintainer for DeadDrop, and as the Freedom of the Press Foundation's first employee, performed outreach and assisted in installations for news organizations that included The New Yorker, ProPublica, The Washington Post, and VICE News, among others.[7][8][9]

In 2015, Dolan moved to San Diego, California to work as head of security at Classy, an American software company and an online fundraising platform designed for nonprofit organizations, a position he held at the time of his death.[1]


Dolan was found dead in a Brooklyn hotel in December 2017 at the age of 36.[1][10] Former colleagues speculate James died of suicide (the same fate as Swartz). He reportedly suffered from PTSD from his time in the Marines.[1] Dolan was the second member of the SecureDrop team to commit suicide.[2] A GoFundMe fund was set up by his fellow Marines to establish the James Dolan Memorial Fund, which will annually donate to designated non-profit foundations and projects in his name.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e Timm, Trevor (9 January 2018). "A tribute to James Dolan, co-creator of SecureDrop, who has tragically passed away at age 36". Freedom of the Press Foundation.
  2. ^ a b c d e Vincent, Isabel (January 27, 2018). "These Hackers' Suicides Are Eerily Similar". New York Post. Archived from the original on January 29, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  3. ^ Gilmour, David (9 January 2018). "James Dolan, who co-created SecureDrop, dead at 36". The Daily Dot.
  4. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (14 May 2013). "Strongbox and Aaron Swartz". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ Robinson, Garrett; Dolan, James (17 August 2014). "SecureDrop's Garrett Robinson and James Dolan – at Aaron Swartz Day 2013". Aaron Swartz Day.
  6. ^ Robinson, Garrett; Dolan, James (8 November 2013). "SecureDrop's Garrett Robinson and James Dolan – at Aaron Swartz Day 2013" (Video). Aaron Swartz Day.
  7. ^ Timm, Trevor; Reitman, Rainey (15 October 2013). "Freedom of the Press Foundation Launches SecureDrop, an Open-Source Submission Platform for Whistleblowers" (Press release). Freedom of the Press Foundation.
  8. ^ Gustin, Sam (15 October 2013). "Meet SecureDrop, a New Lock Box for Whistleblowers". Time.
  9. ^ ssteele (6 December 2016). "Tor at the Heart: SecureDrop". Tor Blog.
  10. ^ Menegus, Bryan (9 January 2018). "James Dolan, Co-Creator of SecureDrop, Dead at 36". Gizmodo.
  11. ^ "James Dolan Memorial Fund". GoFundMe. 12 January 2018.

External links[edit]