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TheStreet Open House

The Digital Skeptic: Security Site Makes Money, But Brings SWAT to the Door

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Brian Krebs had an interesting conversation in his suburban Washington, D.C., driveway last month.

"I just happened to open the front door and there was a full SWAT team with pistols, rifles and shotguns drawn," Krebs, author of security blog KrebsonSecurity.com, told me. "I said, 'You guys are getting tricked. There is no emergency.'"

Krebs had just finished filing a deep investigative piece exposing an identity-theft ring called exposed.su, which trades in personal information stolen from the likes of first lady Michelle Obama and the director of the FBI.

Krebs says those behind Exposed.su retaliated with a Web attack on his site and a false alarm that brought a heavily armed police force to his home.

Investors should expect the multi-award-winning Krebs, who has 14 years experience as an investigative reporter at The Washington Post, to be just another big-time Beltway journalist with another big-time Beltway job.

Save for one fact: Krebs works for no man.

Three and a half years ago, this passionate security writer grew tired of consolidation in the Post newsroom and accepted an exit package. Two days before he was to leave, he began his new life as owner and sole content creator of KrebsOnSecurity.com

And six months later it became how he made his living.

"I would be disingenuous of me to say that I don't miss being from The Washington Post and having it open doors," he told me. "But I don't miss much else."

Even more remarkably, in a business where successful Web writers suffer through grueling production schedule of five stories a day (at least), Krebs considers it a lot to create five stories a week.

"The type of reporting I do is very time-consuming," he said. "But I have the luxury of spending that time and still paying the bills."

It's a living that violates every supposedly ironclad rule of new media.

His traffic is tiny by modern Web standards: 350,000 to 500,000 unique visitors a month. And he engages in none of the modern Internet marketing chicanery. There is no Google (GOOG) Ad revenue to speak of. No laborious headline tinkering to grab search engine traffic. No sophisticated social media strategy. No free contributor networks. There is no pay-per-click foolishness or complex traffic swaps, or link agreements or ad popups or word tie-ins or mobile apps or planned Google Glass feeds.

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