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Douglas H. Bigelow, 49; Chief of Web Security at AOL

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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Douglas H. Bigelow, 49, who for the past decade fought e-mail spam, computer viruses, identity theft and online pornography as the leader of security for the world's largest Internet service provider, died of pancreatic cancer Dec. 24 at his home in Vienna.

Mr. Bigelow, America Online's vice president of operations security, was hired in 1995 as the company's first employee responsible for protecting both customer and corporate data. Ten years later, he managed a department of more than 100 people who defended the network and its customers against cyber attacks and assisted police and federal criminal investigations.

"He led the investigation of literally thousands of security issues every year," said Matt Korn, AOL's executive vice president for network and data security center operations, who hired Mr. Bigelow. "Doug would have overseen the security surrounding things like AOL member databases and password databases. He was a strong force behind everything from member privacy policies to anti-virus and anti-spyware protection in our products."

He was also a popular leader, despite the fact that his employees were often called to work at inconvenient times, such as when a computer worm was released on Superbowl Sunday a few years ago. For 10 years in a row, his division reported the highest satisfaction ratings of any group in the AOL corporate structure, Korn said.

"You'd think, they're dealing with a lot of cruds in the world," Korn said. "But Doug always had an amazing attitude, always a smile . . . and his team was happy. He created a great environment."

Mr. Bigelow had been employed in information technology since 1980, when he went to work for Wesleyan University and helped connect that school and others to Bitnet, one of the many computer networks that preceded what is now known as the Internet.

He served for eight years as a volunteer trustee of the nonprofit Corporation for Research and Educational Networking, which dissolved three years ago. He wrote a chapter in a book about how universities could get connected to the Internet, covering not just the technical requirements but also how to get the money to pay for it.

In those years, when technologists worked collegially to help others solve sticky problems, Mr. Bigelow was among the tech-savvy in the academic world who made time for those who needed assistance.

He was born in Manchester, Conn., grew up in nearby Glastonbury and graduated from Wesleyan. He earned a master's degree from Ohio State University in computer science in 1980. He worked at Wesleyan until joining AOL.

For the past four years, Mr. Bigelow was often found in the stands at Flint Hill School of Oakton, watching his daughter, Elaine, play volleyball, basketball and softball. He was an ardent sailor and in the last seven years often piloted his sailboat, the Dawn Treader, on the Chesapeake Bay. He particularly enjoyed Patrick O'Brian's series of 19th-century British Royal Navy sailing stories.

Besides his daughter, Elaine Bigelow of Vienna, survivors include his wife of 27 years, Susan Okula of Vienna; a son, David Bigelow of Vienna; and two sisters.

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