Friday Summary, 13th of February, 2009

It’s Friday the 13th, and I am in a good mood. I probably should not be, given that every conversation seems to center around some negative aspect of the economy. I started my mornings this week talking with one person after another about a possible banking collapse, and then moved to a discussion of Sirius/XM going under. Others are furious about the banking bailout as it’s rewarding failure. Tuesday of this week I was invited to speak at a business luncheon on data security and privacy, so I headed down the hill to find the side of the roads filled with cars and ATV’s for sale. Cheap. I get to the parking lot and find it empty but for a couple of pickup trucks, all are for sale. The restaurant we are supposed to meet at shuttered its doors the previous night and went out of business. We move two doors down to the pizza joint where the TV is on and the market is down 270 points and will probably be worse by the end of the day. Still, I am in a good mood. Why? Because I feel like I was able to help people. During the lunch we talked about data security and how to protect yourself on line, and the majority of these business owners had no idea about the threats to them both physical and electronic, and no idea on what to do about them. They do now. What was surprising was I found that everyone seemed to have recently been the victim of a scam, or someone else in their family had been. One person had their checks photographed at a supermarket and someone made impressive forgeries. One had their ATM account breached but no clue as to how or why. Another had false credit card charges. Despite all the bad news I am in a good mood because I think I helped some people stay out of future trouble simply by sharing information you just don’t see in the newspapers or mainstream press. This leads me to the other point I wanted to discuss: Rich posted this week on “An Analyst Conundrum” and I wanted to make a couple additional points. No, not just about my being cheap … although I admit there are a group of people who capture the prehistoric moths that fly out of my wallet during the rare opening … but that is not the point of this comment. What I wanted to say is we take this Totally Transparent Research process pretty seriously, and we want all of our research and opinions out in the open. We like being able to share where our ideas and beliefs come from. Don’t like it? You can tell us and everyone else who reads the blog we are full of BS, and what’s more, we don’t edit comments. One other amazing aspect of conducting research in this way has been comments on what we have not said. More specifically, every time I have pulled content I felt was important but confused the overall flow of the post, readers pick up on it. They make note of it in the comments. I think this is awesome! Tells me that people are following our reasoning. Keeps us honest. Makes us better. Right or wrong, the discussion helps the readers in general, and it helps us know what your experiences are. Rich would prefer that I write faster and more often than I do, especially with the white papers. But odd as it may seem, I have to believe the recommendations I make otherwise I simply cannot put the words down on paper. No passion, no writing. The quote Rich referenced was from an email I sent him late Sunday night after struggling with recommending a particular technology over another, and quite literally could not finish the paper until I had solved that puzzle in my own mind. If I don’t believe it based upon what I know and have experienced, I cannot put it out there. And I don’t really care if you disagree with me as long as you let me know why what I said is wrong, and how I screwed up. More, I especially don’t care if the product vendors or security researchers are mad at me. For every vendor that is irate with what I write, there is usually one who is happy, so it’s a zero sum game. And if security researchers were not occasionally annoyed with me there would be something wrong, because we tend to be a rather cranky group when others do not share our personal perspective of the way things are. I would rather have the end users be aware of the issues and walk into any security effort with their eyes open. So I feel good in getting these last two series completed as I think it is good advice and I think it will help people in their jobs. Hopefully you will find what we do useful! On to the week in review: Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences: In a nepotistic extravaganza during Martin’s absence, this week’s network podcast included both Rich & Adrian, with Rich sharing a few rumors on the Heartland breach. Adrian was interviewed by SC Magazine on the Los Alamos Lab’s missing computers. Rich wrote up the Mac OS X Security Update for TidBITS. Macworld released their Security Superguide, with Rich & Chris as authors. Much to their surprise! Rich participated in an SC Magazine webcast on PCI. Rich moderated the Thought Leadership Roundtable on Cloud Computing Security. (Sorry, replay link isn’t up yet.) Favorite Securosis Posts: Rich: Recent Breaches- How To Limit Malicious Outbound Connections. There are a couple of great comments with additional information, including one from Big Bad Mike Rothman, who is not dead yet. Adrian: An Analyst Conundrum for, well, the ten or so reasons I mentioned above. Favorite Outside Posts: Adrian: Showing some love for Dre … Talking about why WAF

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.