Friday Summary: January 29, 2010

I really enjoy making fun of marketing and sales pitches. It’s a hobby. At my previous employer, I kept a book of stupid and nonsense sales sayings I heard sales people make – kind of my I Ching by sociopaths. I would even parrot back nonsense slogans and jargon at opportune moments. Things like “No excuses,” “Now step up to the plate and meet your commitments,” “Hold yourself accountable,” “The customer is first, don’t forget that,” “We must find ways to support these efforts,” “The hard work is done, now you need to complete a discrete task,” “All of your answers are YES YES YES!” and “Allow us to position for success!” Usually these were thrown out in a desperate attempt to get the engineering team to spend $200k to close a $40k deal. Mainstream media marketing uses a similar ham-fisted belligerence in their messaging – trying to tie all your hopes, dreams, and desires to their product. My wife and I used to sit in front of the TV and call out all the overt and subliminal messages in commercials, like how buying a certain waffle iron would get you laid, or a vacuum cleaner that created marital bliss and made you the envy of your neighbors. Some of the pharmaceutical ads are the best, as you can turn off the sound altogether and just gaze at the the imagery and try to guess whether they are selling Viagra, allergy medicine, or eternal happiness. But playing classic music and, in a re-assuring voice, having a cute cartoon figure tell people just how smart they are, is surprisingly effective at getting them to pay an extra $.25 per gallon for gasoline. But I must admit I occasionally find myself swayed by marketing when I thought I was more or less impervious. Worse, when it happens, I can’t even figure out what triggered the reaction. This week was one of those rare occasions. Why the heck is it that I need an iPad? More to the point, what void is this device filling and why do I think it will make my life better? And that stupid little video was kind of condescending and childish … but I still watched it. And I still want one. Was it the design? The size? Maybe it’s because I know my newspaper is dead and I want some new & better way to get information electronically at the breakfast table? Maybe I want to take a browser with me when I travel, and not a phone trying to pretend to display web pages? Maybe it’s because this is a much more appropriate design for a laptop? I don’t know, and I don’t care. This think looks cool and useful in a way that the Kindle just cannot compare to. I want to rip Apple for calling this thing ‘magical’ and ‘revolutionary’, but dammit, I want one. On to the Summary: Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences Rich, Martin, and Zach on this week’s Network Security Podcast. Favorite Securosis Posts Rich: Adrian’s start to the database security fundamentals series. Mike: Rich’s FireStarter on APT. I’m so over APT at this point, but Rich provides some needed rationality in midst of all the media frenzy. Adrian: Rich’s series on Pragmatic Data Security is getting interesting with the Define Phase. Mort: Low Hanging Fruit: Security Management takes Adam’s posts on the topic and fleshes them out. Meier: Security Strategies for Long-Term, Targeted Threats. “Advanced Persistent Threat” just does not cut it. Other Securosis Posts Pragmatic Data Security: Define Phase Incite 1/27/2010: Depending on the Kids Network Security Fundamentals: Default Deny The Certification Myth Pragmatic Data Security: Groundwork FireStarter: Security Endangered Species List Favorite Outside Posts Rich: Who doesn’t love a good cheat sheet? How about a couple dozen all compiled together into a nicely organized list? Mike: Daniel Miessler throws a little thought experiment bomb on pushing everyone through a web proxy farm for safer browsing. An interesting concept, and I need to analyze this in more depth next week. Adrian: Stupid: A Metalanguage For Cryptography Very cool idea. Very KISS! Mort: Managing to the biggest risk. More awesomeness from shrdlu. I particularly love the closer: “So I believe politics can affect both how you assess and prioritize your security risks, and how you go about mitigating them. If you had some kind of magic Silly String that you could spray into your organization to highlight the invisible political tripwires, you’d have a much broader picture of your security risk landscape.” Meier: I luvs secwerity. I also like Tenable’s post on Understanding the New Masschusetts Data Protection Law. Project Quant Posts Project Quant: Database Security – Encryption Project Quant: Project Comments Project Quant: Database Security – Protect through Monitoring Project Quant: Database Security – Audit Top News and Posts Krebs’ article on the Texas bank preemptively suing a customer. Feds boost breach fines. Politics and Security. Groundspeed: a Firefox add-on for web application pen testers. PCI QSAs, certifications to get new scrutiny. It’s The Adversaries Who Are Advanced And Persistent. The EFF releases a tool to see how private/unique your browser is. Intego releases their 2009 Mac security report. It’s pretty balanced. Blog Comment of the Week Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. Yeah, I am awarding myself a consolation prize for my comment in response to Mike’s post on Security Management, but I have to award this week’s best comment to Andre Gironda, in response to Matt Mike’s post on The Certification Myth. I usually throw up some strange straw-man and other kinds of confusing arguments like in my first post. But for this one, I’ll get right to the point: Does anyone know if China{|UK|AU|NZ|Russia|Taiwan|France} has a military directive similar to Department of Defense Directive 8570, thus requiring CISSP and/or GIAC certifications in various information assurance roles? Does anyone disagree that China has information superiority compared to the US, and potentially due in part to the existence of DoDD 8570? If China only hires the best (and not just the brown-nosers), then this would stand to achieve them a significant advantage, right? Could it be that instead

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.