Incite 10/20/2010: The Wrongness of Being Right

One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t ask the question if you don’t want the answer.” Of course, when I say answer, what I really mean is opinion. It makes no difference what we are talking about, I probably have an opinion. In fact, a big part of my job is to have opinions and share them with however will listen (and even some who won’t). But to have opinions means you need to judge. I like to think I have a finely tuned bullshit detector. I’ve been having vendors lie to me since I got into this business 18 years ago. A lot of end users can be delusional about their true situations as well. So that means I’m judging what’s happening around me at all times, and I tell then what I think. Even if they don’t want to hear my version of the truth. Sometimes I make snap judgements; other times I only take a position after considerable thought and research. I’m trying to determine if something is right or wrong, based on all the information I can gather at that point in time. But I have come to understand that right and wrong is nothing more than another opinion. What is right for you may be wrong for me. Or vice-versa. It took me a long long time to figure that out. Most folks still don’t get this. I can recall when I was first exposed to the Myers-Briggs test, when I stumbled on a book that included i. Taking that test was very enlightening for me. Turns out I’m an INTJ, which means I build systems, can be blunt and socially awkward (go figure), and tend to judge everything. Folks like me make up about 1% of the population (though probably a bit higher in tech and in the executive suite). I knew I was different ever since my kindergarten teacher tried to hold me back in kindergarten (true story), but I never really understood why. Even if you buy into the idea there are just 16 personality types, clearly there is a spectrum across each of the 4 characteristics. In my black/white world, there seems to be a lot of color. Who knew? This train of thought was triggered by a tweet by my pal Shack, basically calling BS on one guy’s piece on the value of not trying to be successful. That’s not how Dave rolls. And that’s fine. Dave is one guy. The dude writing the post is another. What works for that guy clearly would n’t work for Dave. What works for me doesn’t work for you. But what we can’t do is judge it as right or wrong. It’s not my place to tell some guy he needs to strive for success. Nor is it my place to tell the Boss not to get upset about something someone said about something. I would like her not to get upset because when she’s upset it affects me, and it’s all about me. But if she decides to get upset, that’s what she thinks is the right thing to do. To make this all high concept, a large part of our social problems boil down to one individual’s need to apply their own concept of right to another. Whether it’s religion or politics or parenting or values or anything, everyone thinks they are right. So they ridicule and persecute those who disagree. I’m all for intelligent discord, but at some point you realize you aren’t going to get to common ground. Not without firearms. Trying to shove your right into my backside won’t work very well. The next time someone does something you think is just wrong, take a step back. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see if there is some way you can rationalize the fact they think it’s right. Maybe you can see it, maybe you can’t. But unless that decision puts you in danger, you just need to let it go. Right? Glad you decided to see it my way (the right way). – Mike Photo credits: “wrong way/right way” originally uploaded by undergroundbastard Recent Securosis Posts Vaults within Vaults React Faster and Better: Introduction Monitoring Up the Stack series Platform Considerations Climbing the Stack Dead or Alive: Pen Testing Incite 4 U Verify your plumbing (or end up in brown water) – Daniel Cox of BreakingPoint busts devices for a living. So it’s interesting to read some of his perspectives on what you need to know about your networking gear. Remember, no network, no applications. So if your network is brittle, then your business will be brittle. Spoken by a true plumber, no? There is good stuff there, like understanding what happens during a power cycle and the logging characteristics of the device. The one I like best is #5: Do Not Believe Your Vendor. That’s great advice for any type of purchase. The vendor’s job is to sell you. Your job is to solve a problem. Rarely the twain shall meet, so verify all claims. But only if you want to keep your job, because folks covered in the brown stuff tend to get jettisoned quickly. – MR It’s new, and it’s old – Adam Shostack’s post Re-architecting the Internet poses a valid question: if we were to build a new Internet from scratch, would it be more secure? I think I have argued both sides of the “need a new Internet” debate at one time or another. Now I am kind of non-plussed on the whole discussion because I believe there won’t be a new Internet, and there won’t be a single Internet. We need to change what we do, but we don’t need a new Internet to do it. There is no reason we cannot continue to use the physical Internet we have and just virtualize the presentation. Much as a virtual server will leverage whatever hardware it has to run different virtual machines, there is no reason we can’t have different virtual Internets running over the same physical infrastructure. We have learned from information centric security that we can encapsulate information

Read Post

White Paper Goodness: Understanding and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall

What? A research report on enterprise firewalls. Really? Most folks figure firewalls have evolved about as much over the last 5 years as ant traps. They’re wrong, of course, but people think of firewalls as old, static, and generally uninteresting. But this is unfounded. Firewalls continue to evolve, and their new capabilities can and should impact your perimeter architecture and firewall selection process. That doesn’t mean we will be advocating yet another rip and replace job at the perimeter (sorry, vendors), but there are definitely new capabilities that warrant consideration – especially as the maintenance renewals on your existing gear come due. We have written a fairly comprehensive paper that delves into how the enterprise firewall is evolving, the technology itself, how to deploy it, and ultimately how to select it. We assembled this paper from the Understand and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall blog series from August and September 2010. Special thanks to Palo Alto Networks for sponsoring the research. You can check out the page in the research library, or download directly: Understanding and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall 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.