Incite 1/5/2011: It’s a Smaller World, after All

By Mike Rothman

I’m happy to say the holiday season was pretty eventful for the Boss and her family. Her brother (and his wife) welcomed twin boys into the world right after Xmas. The whole process of creating life still astounds, and the idea of two at a time boggles the mind – even if you’ve been through it. Turns out we were up North when the new guys showed up (a week early), so we got to meet them in person. We live 600 miles apart, so that was an unexpected bonus.

Waterboarding or small world? It's a tough choice...It also meant there was no shot at all of us attending the Bris. 8-day-old boys provide a little donation to the gods and everybody eats. It’s a festive occasion (for us – for the babies, not so much) and we hated the economic reality that we couldn’t travel to attend in person. But then over the hills we saw a glimmer of hope. Was it a plane? Nope. 5 tickets are just too much money. A train? Nope. Can’t take a day to go back and forth. It’s video conferencing. Sure, Skype is fun to do a little video conference with the grandparents from time to time. It’s also critical when traveling abroad, unless you like $2,000 phone bills.

In this case, video allowed us to be at the Bris, from the comfort of our home office. The kids were off from school, and my brother in law set up his web cam to overlook the ceremony. So we all crouched around the computer and watched the ritual. We got to wave a lot and they did a great job of including us in the ceremony. Of course it wasn’t exactly like being there, but it was a hell of a lot better than seeing a few pictures three days later.

When my kids were born, our option to do something similar was a $30,000 video conferencing system. You could fly in on the Concorde for less. And my brother in law would have needed a compatible systems as well. Through the wonders of Moore’s Law and the kindness of the bandwidth gods, now we can be anywhere in the world at any time. Now a Bris is not something you need (or even want) to see via a higher fidelity telepresence type environment. But seeing the entire family gathered, and being able to participate ourselves from Atlanta, was amazing.

And that’s why the world is getting to be a smaller place every day. Of course I don’t do much video, because Rich and Adrian know what I look like (pretty as that is) and I’d rather not everybody see my 6-day stubble and bunny slippers (my usual work attire). But the technology is invaluable for connecting with those you like (and perhaps especially those you don’t like), when a phone call seems a bit 2-dimensional.

Whether Apple’s FaceTime commercials bring a tear to your eye or not, you can’t disregard the experience. Video conferencing is going to happen, and I saw why on Monday.


Photo credits: “It’s a Small World!” originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk

Incite 4 U

  1. Pen testing obsolete? Hardly… Val Smith laid out some bait regarding whether pen testing is rapidly becoming obsolete. I guess that depends on how you define pen testing. The traditional unsophisticated run of Core or Metasploit with a bunch of glorified monkeys to check the compliance boxes is actually alive and well. PCI will ensure that for years to come. But that clearly not-so-useful practice will become more automated and cheaper, like every other competitive commodity function. But Val’s point at the end is that pen testing is evolving and needs to provide organizations with “a new type of service which tests their infrastructures and security postures in a different way”. That I agree with. There will always be a role for sophisticated white hats to try to break stuff. Maybe we stop calling that pen testing, which is fine by me. As long as you keep trying to break your stuff, call it whatever you want. – MR

  2. Don’t hack me, bro! Mocana made news this week when they announced they hacked into Internet TV set top boxes. I don’t think anyone is really surprised by this. The entire set top box / TV as Internet market is the poster boy for feature advancement land grab, with companies furiously vying for a share of Internet TV audiences. But really, who wants to worry about security when all you want is frackin’ TV! Can’t we all just get along? Well, no, not really. I am willing to bet that any security measure beyond a password and some rudimentary session-based encryption never came up in the product design meetings. “Winning the market” is about features, and the winner can clean up the mess later. Or at least that is the attitude I see. But these devices are stripped-down computers. And they use standard networking protocols. In most cases with reduced-footprint variants of standard operating systems. And it’s now attached to your home network. To me, Mocana is just pointing out the obvious, which is that these freakin’ things lack basic security. And it probably did not take anything more than a MitM attack to intercept the credit card, but I am willing to bet they are susceptible to injection as well. Granted, Mocana sells security products to help developers and designers secure these devices, so their PR is self-serving (of course), but this whole segment needs a wake-up call. – AL

  3. The name of the game? Reduce scope! I did a customer advisory board meeting for a client last year, and one of the attendees mentioned his specific goal was to reduce his PCI in-scope devices to zero. Right, he wanted to transition all protected data (and the associated processes) to external service providers and make PCI their problem. Certainly a noble goal, but not sure how realistic that is for most organizations. Clearly the trend is towards higher segmentation and compartmentalization, with the express goal of reducing the scope of your PCI assessment. Jeff Lowder discusses how to define these connected systems on BlogInfoSec. He also points out the ambiguity in how to determine what is in scope, which shifts the balance of power to the QSA which makes the determination of in-scope vs. out-of-scope. The post is about a month old, but given a clear trend toward reducing scope, it’s good to see what’s actually in the document. – MR

  4. DAM VCs: Two weeks ago Sentrigo announced a $6M series C round of financing. The funding is positioned as helping Sentrigo leverage their product for cloud based-deployment, which makes sense for an embedded security technology that resides in the database engine, as it can support private cloud, public IaaS, and some PaaS based databases. A couple years ago Rich and I predicted a shakeup in the database security market based upon the trends – and the horrific economic conditions – we were seeing then. Since that prediction, Oracle has acquired Secerno, IBM acquired Guardium, and Netezza acquired Tizor – and was then itself also gobbled up by IBM. And that was on the heels of Fortinet’s acquisition of IPLocks, and RippleTech being acquired by Nitro. Quest, Symantec, and Embarcadero had all pulled out of the market. But the shakeout was necessary, and the market has continued to grow at a 30% clip over the last couple years. Investment and launch of new technologies show the investment community has faith this segment has legs. And if you look at the growing divide in the vision of how these products should be deployed, there is certainly room for innovation. The vendors are making changes to their products to account for how they think customers want to employ this technology. Database deployment options, database management, and even the redefinition of what a database is (NoSQL, SQL Azure) has evolved. Expect continued growth, acquisitions, and new faces entering the party. – AL

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