Dark Reading Article: Poking Things With Sticks

Dark Reading just posted my column for this month, entitled, “11 Truths We Hate To Admit”. Due to a miscommunication with my editor it reads as if I still live in Boulder, Colorado. I’m really down in Phoenix, but spent most of my adult life in Boulder. DR is a fun publication to write for- they want us to poke the industry with a stick and get people thinking. Nothing I wrote is any big surprise, but they aren’t the kinds of things we tend to publish. If it doesn’t piss at least a few people off I didn’t do a good job writing the article, although so far the reviews are mostly positive. Damn. Here’s a snippet: 1. Signature based desktop antivirus is an addiction, not effective security. AV is often the single biggest security expense in an organization, yet it’s one of the least effective. Gateway AV is still a reasonable investment to filter out known garbage, but desktop AV needs to seriously improve its heuristics and other non-signature techniques if it is to protect us. Independent reports indicate current AV products are full of gaping holes, and many organizations experience extensive downtime from bad signatures and poor performance. At least today’s malware doesn’t grind your computer to a halt at noon every Wednesday. 2. The bad guys beat us because they’re agnostic and we’re religious. The bad guys are always innovating for competitive advantage, but innovation isn’t something large organizations or industries do well. We get wrapped up in our own little religious battles over PKI, IDS, standards, AV, whoever we work for at the time, and what’s worked for us before. We become too personally tied to pet projects we’re experienced with — and can’t let go of. 3. Antitrust concerns force Microsoft to weaken security. Host security companies take out full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and threaten to go to court when Microsoft adds security features that might tread on their turf. Thanks to some poor past behavior by Microsoft, these tactics work. But if it weren’t for the antitrust problems of the past, we’d all have free anti-spyware and AV in Windows, forcing those other companies to compete on merit. < p style=”text-align:right;font-size:10px;”>Technorati Tags: Dark Reading, Security Industry Share:

Read Post

Latest Network Security Podcast Up

While I was traveling home, Martin posted the latest episode of the Network Security Podcast. Our guests this week are Marcin and Andre from We spend most of the episode talking about web application security issues. At least, I think we do. Due to technical difficulties related to my travel I got booted half-way through the podcast just as Andre was getting into the good stuff. Sorry for the problems guys, and thanks again for being on the show. And for getting me drunk and talking me into inviting you on the show. And having me pay the tab. Um. I think I’m doing this wrong… < p style=”text-align:right;font-size:10px;”>Technorati Tags: Application security, Podcast Share:

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.