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Friday Summary: September 21, 2012

By Adrian Lane

Adrian here …

I had a few surgical procedures over the past few weeks. They corrected some vascular defects that were causing several problems, some of which had been coming on for such a long time I was unaware that there was an issue. The whole boiling frog in a beaker concept. And with the slow progression I was ignorant of the extent of the damage it was causing. The good news is that procedures were successful and their positive benefit was far greater than I anticipated.

This whole series of events hammered home a concept that I have been intellectually aware of for a long time, but not lived out to this degree. Many people have blogged about how and why people make bad security tradeoffs. Instinct, fear, lower brain functions, and other ways we are wired to make some decisions and not others. Bruce Schneier has been talking about this for 10 years or more. But I think for the first time I really understand it at a basic level.

When I was a kid I had a very strong vasovagal response. I get the lightheadedness, nausea, feeling of being extremely hot, and sweating. I don’t get the fuzziness, inability to speak, or weakness. But I only ever got it when I went to the eye doctor and they administered the glaucoma test. Nothing else has ever bugged me – until this recent surgery. For the first time I saw it in slow motion, with the internal conversation going something like this:

The upper, rational part of my brain says: “I’m really looking forward to getting this stuff fixed and moving on with my life.”
The lower part that’s wired into all critical infrastructure say: “Something’s wrong. Something bad is happening to your leg. Fix it!”
The upper brain: “It’s okay, the doctor’s just fixing some veins. Don’t …”
Lower brain: “NO, it’s not! Kick that F**ker in the head! Kick him then run like hell!”

Lower brain wins. And all these years I just thought I hated my eye doctor. Who knew? But getting that very strange sensation again was both odd and educational. Being aware of the condition and watching yourself react as an adult is a whole different experience; you consciously witness two parts of your brain at odds. And I know how to work through it without passing out, but it involves the same stomach compression techniques jet pilots learn to combat G-forces. A great way to creep out the hospital staff too, but it kept me alert through the physical manifestations of the conflict to ‘witness’ the internal debate. No wonder we’re so flawed when if comes to making judgements when threats or fear are involved. I can be aware of it and still do very little about it. You body would rather shut down than deal with it.

On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

  • Mike Rothman: Antivirus programs often poorly configured, study finds. In a “master of the obvious” research finding, the OPSWAT guys tell us that even if AV worked (which it doesn’t), most folks misconfigure their controls anyway and don’t have the right stuff turned on. And you wonder why the busiest guys in the industry are the folks tracking all the breaches?
  • Adrian Lane: Looking Inside Your Screenshots. So many good posts this week, but I thought this was the most interesting. I have never been a big fan of digital watermarking – it’s too easy to detect and evade for images and music files, and we know it degrades content. But in this case it’s more difficult to detect and does not degrade the content – and it gives Blizzard a hammer to use in legal cases as they have solid user/client identity. Sneaky, and if you give it some thought, there are other practical applications of this approach.
  • Rich: Compliance lessons from Lance at EmergentChaos. As the resident Securosis cycling fan there’s no way I wasn’t going to pick this one. Only difference is Lance previously, clearly, stated he didn’t dope… which isn’t the same as his recent comments more focused on ‘compliance’.

Project Quant Posts

Research Reports and Presentations

Top News and Posts

Blog Comment of the Week

Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Richard Steven Hack, in response to It’s Time for Enterprises to Support a “Backup” Browser.

I know it’s likely to be hard to enforce – and they’re a pain to use – but anyone using Firefox needs to have AdBlock and NoScript installed by default.

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