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Incite 4/7/2010: Everybody Loves the Underdog

By Mike Rothman

Come on, admit it. Unless you have Duke Blue Devil blood running through your veins (and a very expensive diploma on the wall) or had Duke in your tournament bracket with money on the line, you were pulling for the Butler Bulldogs to prevail in Monday night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball final. Of course you were – everyone loves the underdog.

They don't make 'em like they used to... If you think of all the great stories through history, the underdog has always played a major role. Think David taking down Goliath. Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Pretty sure the betting line had long odds on both those scenarios. Think of our movie heroes, like Rocky, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and the list goes on and on. All weren’t supposed to win and we love the fact that they did. We love the underdogs.

Unfortunately reality intruded on our little dream, and on Monday Butler came up a bucket short. But you still felt good about the game and their team, right? I can’t wait for next year’s season to see whether the little team that could can show it wasn’t all just a fluke (remember George Mason from 2006?).

And we love our underdogs in technology, until they aren’t underdogs anymore. No one really felt bad when IBM got railed when mainframes gave way to PCs. Unless you worked at IBM, of course. Those damn blue shirts. And when PCs gave way to the Internet, lots of folks were happy that Microsoft lost their dominance of all things computing. How long is it before we start hating the Google. Or the Apple?

They don't make 'em like they used to... It’ll happen because there will be another upstart taking the high road and showing how our once precious Davids have become evil, profit-driven Goliaths. Yup, it’ll happen. It always does. Just think about it – Apple’s market cap is bigger than Wal-Mart. Not sure how you define underdog, but that ain’t it.

Of course, unlike Rocky and Luke Skywalker, the underdog doesn’t prevail in two hours over a Coke and popcorn. It happens over years, sometimes decades. But before you go out and get that Apple logo tattooed on your forearm to show your fanboi cred, you may want to study history a little. Or you may become as much a laughingstock as the guy who tattooed the Zune logo on his arm. I’m sure that seemed like a good idea at the time, asshat. The mighty always fall, and there is another underdog ready to take its place.

If we learn anything through history, we should now the big dogs will always let us down at some point. So don’t get attached to a brand, a company, or a gadget. You’ll end up as disappointed as the guy who thought The Phantom Menace would be the New Hope of our kids’ generation.

– Mike.

Photo credits: “Underdog Design” originally uploaded by ChrisM70 and “Zune Tattoo Guy” originally uploaded by Photo Giddy


Incite 4 U

  1. What about Ritalin? – Shrdlu has some tips for those of us with an, uh, problem focusing. Yes, the nature of the security managers’ job is particularly acute, but in reality interruption is the way of the world. Just look at CNN or ESPN. There is so much going on I find myself rewinding to catch the headlines flashing across the bottom. Rock on, DVR – I can’t miss that headline about… well whatever it was about. In order to restore any level of productivity, you need to take Shrdlu’s advice and delegate, while removing interruptions – like email notifications, IM and Twitter. Sorry Tweeps, but it’s too hard to focus when you are tempted by links to blending an iPad. It may be counter-intuitive, but you do have to slow down to speed up at times. – MR

  2. Database security is a headless rhicken – As someone who has been involved with database security for a while, it comes as no surprise that this study by the Enterprise Strategy Group shows a lack of coordination is a major issue. Anyone with even cursory experience knows that security folks tend to leave the DBAs alone, and DBAs generally prefer to work without outside influence. In reality, there are usually 4+ stakeholders – the DBA, the application owner/manager/developer, the sysadmin, security, and maybe network administration (or even backup, storage, and…). Everyone views the database differently, each has different roles, and half the time you also have outside contractors/vendors managing parts of it. No wonder DB security is a mess… pretty darn hard when no one is really in charge (but we sure know who gets fired first if things turn south). – RM

  3. Beware of surveys bearing gifts – The PR game has changed dramatically over the past decade. Now (in the security business anyway) it’s about sound bites, statistics, and exploit research. Without either of those three, the 24/7 media circus isn’t going to be interested. Kudos to Bejtlich, who called out BeyondTrust for trumping up a “survey” about the impact of running as a standard user. Now to be clear, I’m a fan of this approach, and Richard acknowledges the benefits of running as a standard user as well. I’m not a fan of doing a half-assed survey, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s hard to get folks interested in a technology unless it’s mandated by compliance. – MR

  4. e-Banking and the Basics – When I read Brian Krebs’ article on ‘e-Banking Guidance for Banks & Businesses’, I was happy to see someone offering pragmatic advice on how to detect and mitigate the surge of on-line bank fraud. What shocked me is that the majority of his advice was basic security and anti-fraud steps, and it was geared towards banks! They are not already doing all this stuff? Oh, crap! Does that mean most of these regional banks are about as sophisticated as an average IT shop about security – “not very”? WTF? You don’t monitor for abnormal activity already? You don’t have overlapping controls in place already? You don’t have near-real-time fraud detection in place already? You’re a freaking bank! It’s 2010, and you are not requiring 3rd factor verification for sizable Internet transfers already? I suspect that security will be a form of business Darwinism, and you’ll be out of business soon enough for failing to adapt. Then someone else will worry about your customers. I just hope they don’t get bankrupted before you finish flailing and failing. – AL

  5. If you can’t beat them, OEM – When you have an enterprise firewall that isn’t a market leader in a mature market, what do you do? That’s the challenge facing McAfee. The former Secure Computing offering (Sidewinder) still has a decent presence in the US government, but hasn’t done much in the commercial sector, and isn’t going to displace the market leaders like Cisco, Juniper, or Check Point by hoping some ePO fairy dust changes things. So McAfee is partnering with other folks to integrate firewall capabilities into network devices. A while back they announced a deal with Brocade (the former Foundry switch folks) and this week did a deal with Riverbed to have the firewall built into the WAN optimization box. Clearly security and network stuff need to come together cleanly (something Cisco and Juniper have been pushing) and folks like Foundry and Riverbed had no real security mojo. But the real question is whether this is going to help McAfee capture any share in network security. I’m skeptical because it’s not like the folks using Brocade switches or Riverbed gear aren’t doing security now, and an OEM relationship doesn’t provide the perceived integration that will make a long-term difference. – MR

  6. Compliance owns us – No surprise – yet another survey shows that compliance drives security spending, even though it doesn’t always align with enterprise priorities. Forrester performed a study, commissioned by RSA and Microsoft, on where dollars go compared to the information assets an organization prioritizes. The study did an okay job of constraining the normally fuzzy numbers around losses (limiting costs to hard dollars), but I’m a bit skeptical that organizations are tracking them well in the first place. Some of the conclusions are pretty damn weak, especially considering how they structured the study, but it’s still worth a read to judge attitudes – even if the value numbers are crap. While imperfect, it’s a better methodology than the vast majority of this kind of research. As I’ve said before – I think our compliance obsession is the natural result of the current loss economics, and until we can really measure the costs of IP loss, nothing will change. – RM

  7. If not the FCC, then who? – In a clever move, Comcast was able to successfully argue against net neutrality claims, arguing that because the FCC deregulated the Internet, they have no basis to force compliance with a policy that is not embodied in law. Rather than debate the merits of net neutrality itself, they side-stepped the issue. As there is no other governing body that could enforce the policy at this time, Comcast is getting its way. The corporate equivalent of a cold-blooded murderer getting off on a technicality. But this is a pyrrhic victory, because now we get to see all those clever tools that hide content and protocols from the Chinese government unleashed closer to home, so Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are going to end up having to move the data regardless. Hopefully the public will find a suitable way to avoid broadband providers’ bureaucracy and legislation at the same time. – AL

  8. Are you grin frackking me? – Funny article here on the Business Insider about a former consultant (now a VC) who called bunk on his entire organization, which was basically feeding everyone a load of crap about their capabilities. I’ve been using the term “grin fscker” for years to represent someone who tells you want you want to hear, but has no intention of following through. Sometimes I call them on it, sometimes I don’t – and that’s my bad. The only way to deal with grin fscking is to call it out and shove the grin fscker’s nose in the poop. As the post explains, the buck should stop here. If someone is being disingenuous, it’s everyone’s responsibility to call that out. – MR

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