The Appearance Myth

You can always tell whether you are at a hacker con or a corporate-oriented conference in our business. The hacker cons have plenty of tattoos, piercings, fringe hairstyles, and the like. In fact, I’m usually more concerned that folks will think I’m a narc because I have none of the above. But this brings me around to the idea of appearance and its impact on your career. I think Lee and Mike had a good, reasoned response in their Fashion Advice from Infosecleaders post. The question is about a guy, who is climbing the corporate ladder and now finds himself having to dress the part. And it’s uncomfortable. Lee and Mike’s general thought is that he needs to deal with it, and that to play the game you have to look like you are in the game. And maybe they are right. But they might also be wrong. I think there could be other factors at work here, based on experiences I’ve had, because I’ve very rarely looked the part in any job I’ve had. Let’s start with my early META Group experience. I was in my early 20s and looked 18. My hair hadn’t started turning gray yet, and I was sitting across from CEOs and folks whose networking budgets had 9 or 10 zeros. I would be brought in to discuss trends in networking and telecommunications. The reality was that some of these networking jockeys probably had underwear older than me. So as you can imagine the first few minutes of each meeting were always pretty interesting, as everyone in the room sized each other up. I was far less snarky at that point so I usually didn’t antagonize the clients with tales of beer funnels, pet rocks, and dances with girls. You know, the stuff us kids used to do for fun in the olden days. Most of them took me for a lightweight and thankfully they didn’t have BlackBerrys back then, because I imagine they would have started banging through email before the introductions ended. But then a strange thing happened. Pretty much every time. I started talking. I answered their questions. I provided perspectives on trends that indicated I actually knew what I was talking about. Who knew? This young whippersnapper actually talked to lots of folks and although a front-end processor was invented while he was still crapping in diapers, he understood IBM’s product strategy and what that meant to these poor saps who had to make the stuff work. I actually kind of enjoyed that expectations were pretty low when I entered the room. It made impressing clients much easier. Now back to the topic of attire. Truthfully, I’m not sure whether this guy’s problem is attire or self-esteem. You see, he feels different, and therefore the senior team treats him as different. He doesn’t seem to believe he belongs at the table with the big boys. So, I believe, senior folks pick up on that and realize his self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t think you belong in the club, you are right. If you have confidence in your abilities, know you speak knowledgeably, and are not intimidated by muckety-mucks who believe you need to wear a tie to be successful, you should be fine. Even in your khakis and button-down shirt. And if your organization truly judges you based on what you wear, and not what you know and what you do, then you are working for the wrong organization. Share:

Read Post

Dueling Security Reports: Cisco vs. Intego

Today, within a few minutes of each other, I read the latest 2010 security reports from Cisco and Intego. The Cisco report is very broad, while the Intego report is Mac specific. They really highlight the reality vs. hyperbole problem we often see in threat reports. While there’s some good information in the Cisco report, reading the APT section on page 22 and then my satircal post from yesterday should be good for some laughs. And when you hit the Android/Apple section? Umm… hard to say anything nice. There’s a ton of hyperbole in there about Apple and mobile devices being a major focus in 2011, without anything to back it up. The report seems to assume vulnerabilities correlate with exploits! As in: there are lots of Apple vulnerabilities, so we know there will be a ton of new attacks! Maybe 2011 will be the year Macs get the snot kicked out of them, but it won’t be due to rising vulnerability rates. Macs have had plenty of easily exploited vulns for years now. Heck, if anything it’s harder to exploit the current OS X than just a couple years ago. I can’t find any basis in the report for their conclusion. No data on rising attack rates. Just some point examples that fail to indicate a trend, plus a pretty graph of platform vulnerability rates. Wishful thinking, I guess. Oh, the best part is the title of the graph “Recent Spike in Exploits Targeting Apple Users”… with a graph of the vulns. Someone on the security team needs to have a word with the marketing team. As a counter, take a read of the Intego report. Page one lists all the exploits they’ve seen over the past year… which, once you knock out variants, you can count on one hand. 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.