I saw an old friend last week, and we were talking about the business of Securosis a bit. One of the questions he asked was whether it’s a lifestyle business. The answer is that of course it is. Rich, Adrian, and I have done lots of things over the years and we all have independently come to the conclusion that we don’t want to work for big machines any more. We all have different reasons for that, and I was reminded of one of mine on Monday.

Now that's some gridlock...Traffic. The mere mention of the word makes me cringe. Not like the Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (YouTube) cringe, but the cringe of wasted time. I’ve been lucky in that even when I did have an ‘office’, my commute was normally less than 15 minutes. But for most of the past 10 years, I’ve worked from a home office, which really means from random coffee shops and lunch joints.

But on Monday I had to take a morning flight, and I wanted to help out the Boss and get the kids ready for school. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to leave 30 minutes later to head down to Hartsfield (Atlanta’s airport). I was wrong. Instead of the 35 minutes it normally takes, I was in my car for almost 80. Yeah, almost an hour and a half. I couldn’t help but feel that was wasted time.

Even more, I feel for the folks who do that every day. I mean there are people who drive 70 or 80 miles each way to their offices. Now I’m not trying to judge anyone here, because folks live where they do for lots of reasons. And they work where they work for lots of reasons. Some folks don’t feel they can change jobs or can’t find something that’ll work closer to home. But you have to wonder about the opportunity cost of all that commuting time. Not to mention the environmental impact.

Now to be clear, I’m a novice commuter. I didn’t have any podcasts loaded up to listen to or audio books or phone calls to make first thing on Monday morning. Yeah, who the hell wants to hear from me first thing in the morning? So there are more productive ways to pass the time. But that’s not for me. I want my biggest decision in the morning to be which coffee shop to hit and when to make sure I have no exposure to traffic. And it works much better for me that way.

– Mike

Photo credits: “Rush Hour” originally uploaded by MSVG

Incite 4 U

  1. Hot wool for you… – The big news this week was the release of a new Firefox plug-in called Firesheep, which basically implements dead simple sidejacking over a wireless network for key social network sites. Like Facebook and Twitter. I saw sidejacking of a Gmail account by Rob Graham at BlackHat about 3 years ago, so this isn’t a new attack. But the ease of doing it is. Rich uses this as another reminder that Public WiFi is no good, and you can’t dispute that. Sure we could get all pissy that this guy released the tool, but that’s the wrong conclusion. I suggest you think of this as a great opportunity to teach users something. You can Firesheep their stuff in the office or in a conference room and use that to show how vulnerable their sites are. I suspect it will have the same educational effect as an internal phishing attack, meaning it’ll shock the hell out of the users and they may even remember it for more than an hour. This piece on GigaOm goes through some of the preventative measures, such as connecting via SSL when that is an option, and using a VPN to encrypt your traffic. Both are good ideas. – MR
  2. Bass ackwards (more on Firesheep) – Joe Wilcox argues that the new Firesheep Firefox Plugin is akin to “Giving Guns to Kids”. He claims that, because it’s so easy for anyone to see the cleartext password and cookies that are being blasted around the planet at the speed of light, nearly anyone can compromise an account. I can’t quite comprehend what Mr. Wilcox is thinking by calling the plugin ‘abominable’, as it is simply shining a powerful spotlight on stupidity that has been going on for a long time. Every semi-skilled criminal is doing this today – or more precisely has been doing this for almost a decade. Can the plugin turn kids into hackers? No, but it gives them a handy tool if they did not already have one. But it will help make a lot more people aware of the stupidity going on with web providers, and of logging in over untrusted wireless connections. Better to learn that lesson on Toys ‘R Us than Wells Fargo. – AL
  3. Reconcile that, Gunnar – I’ll admit it: I’m a big fan of Gunnar and my man crush has grown since he’s joined our team as a Contributor. Watching the man at work is a learning experience for me, and that’s a good thing. But in his Reconcile This post he’s missing part of the story. He unloaded on security folks for solving yesterday’s problems by making firewalls the highest priority spend. If he’s talking about traditional port-based firewalls, then I’m with him. But I suspect a great deal of those folks are looking at upgrading their perimeter defenses by adding application awareness to the firewall. We described this in depth in our Understanding and Selecting an Enterprise Firewall paper. These devices address social network apps (by enforcing policy on egress), as well as helping to enforce mobile policies (via a VPN connection to leverage the egress policies). I realize GP is talking about the need to focus on the root cause, which is application and higher-level security. But security folks don’t generally control those functions. They do control the network, which is why they usually look to solve whatever security problem they have with an inline device. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And the network security hammer is a firewall. – MR
  4. Wanted: A good tailor – A Cornell Univeristy team is looking to weave security into code constructs. The initiative, called ‘Fabric’, is an attempt to “… replace multiple existing layers with a single, simpler programming interface that makes security reasoning explicit and direct”. I am still working my way through the research paper to see what problems they can reasonably expecte to address but I like the idea and the way they are looking to solve many of the implicit trust relationships created between API caller and providers. The home page describes the project as a JIF based extension to the Java language and compiler. Hopefully this will help jumpstart the secure code movement, because the authors realize it’s not that the languages we have fail us, it’s instead an issue of design and code execution. – AL
  5. Juniper gets into the mobile security game – Juniper made a pretty wide-ranging announcement (with few specifics) today signaling their entry into the mobile device security game. They’ll ship a suite that includes anti-virus, personal firewall, anti-spam, loss and theft prevention, and monitoring. Uh, on a smartphone? The announcement wasn’t specific about which devices would be supported or who is supplying the technology. Allegedly the leverage will be in providing a common platform for management with Juniper’s network devices. Seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but clearly there are applicable threat vectors. It just seems that using an endpoint security metaphor (the suite with everything in it) on a smartphone is yesterday’s technology to secure tomorrow’s computers. But I’ll reserve real judgement until we get more specifics of what’s in there. – MR
  6. Expiring password expiration – The value of password rotation has been debated for the last decade and longer. But no one, at least no one I was aware of, had ever performed a statistical analysis on the actual benefits of requiring users to change their passwords. Until this research paper on the Security of Modern Password Expiration, that is. The basic idea behind password rotation is that, in the event a hacker can guess your password, periodic rotation will limit the how long they can use it to gain access. Somewhere along the way somebody thought this was a good idea. And like an ancient ceremony, we keep blindly practicing password rotation, and it has become embedded in our ways of doing things. Rotation is now part of regulatory requirements, which we have to do them whether or not they offer any value. The research shows the fly in the ointment is the distribution of passwords, and the likelihood that any new password will be a variant of the old passwords. This means once an account is compromised, it is likely to be hacked again based on prior knowledge. Good food for thought when setting password policies. – AL
  7. Evading IDS/IPS? Really? – StoneSoft gets the Master of the Obvious Award for a post last week. Evidently they discovered that sophisticated attackers can evade IDS/IPS detection. Our pals at Threatpost have a clear and balanced story on it. To be clear, some of their new evasion techniques are likely novel, and we should thank them for the research. But for the Chicken Little act, pretending this is radical news, not so much. As we all know, sophisticated attackers are going to break your stuff. Period. So IDS/IPS isn’t about getting every attack, it’s about catching some of them and helping to prioritize which need to be dealt with now. One of my research projects for early next year is going to be a deep dive into where IDS/IPS fits in, as network security evolves. – MR
  8. Take my stock and shove it! – Hats off to Symantec’s CEO Enrique Salem, who basically is telling his grumpy shareholders to stick it. Of course, as CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, he can’t really tell his shareholders to pound sand, but the message is clear. He believes in the strategy and wants shareholders to think long term, notwithstanding that SYMC stock is down 3% over the past 18 months while the NASDAQ is up 54%. If the shareholders don’t like it, they should park their money elsewhere. Like an index fund… – MR