There are a couple calls you just don’t want to get. Like from the FBI when you’ve had some kind of breach and your secret recipe is listed on eBay. Or from the local cops because your kids did something stupid and you can only hope your umbrella policy will cover it. But those are relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things. I got a call Friday morning that my Uncle Mac had passed away suddenly. I can’t say we were very close, but he met my aunt when I was a kid, and has been present at good times and bad over the past 35 years.

Who said family doesn't bite... Mac was a bear of a guy. Big and loud (okay, maybe it’s a family trait), but with a heart of gold and a liver of steel, given the crappy vodka he drank. He had the cleaning contract at West Point stadium for football games, so I grew up with a gas powered blower on my back, cleaning up football messes many Saturdays of my youth. He worked hard and got along with folks from all walks of life. He passed doing what he did most mornings, sitting in his big chair drinking his morning coffee. He made a peaceful transition to the next thing, and for that we’re all grateful. So my brother and I woke early on Sunday to travel to NY for the memorial service.

A whole bunch of my family was there. Obviously my first cousins were there – Mac was their father figure. Most of my Dad’s first cousins (and he has a lot) represented, and a few of their kids showed as well. Even our own family Urkel showed up. Yes, you know every family has one and mine is no exception. It was great to see everyone (even Urkel), although it seems we only get together when something bad has happened. Soon enough there will be weddings and the like to celebrate and I look forward to convening on happier occasions. We even threatened to organize a family reunion. The logistics of pulling that off would be monumental, with family members spread across the country, but it’s worth trying. It reminded me that family matters, and as busy as life gets I shouldn’t forget that.

Yet there are also family matters that a sudden death presents. Matters all too easy to sweep under the rug. You know, those economic discussions that rival a root canal. My aunt had little visibility into my uncle’s business dealings, and now she’s got to both find and figure out what needs to happen to wrap his business up. He also handled much of the bill paying. Now she has to figure out who is owed what and when. Your lawyer probably talks about estate planning (if you have an estate to plan) and tells you to make sure your stuff is properly documented, but this is a clear reminder that I have work to do.

As much as you want to plan, you never know when your time is up. It’s hard enough for the survivors to deal with the emptiness and grief of the loss, especially a sudden loss. To add financial uncertainty due to poor documentation seems kind of ridiculous. Obviously no one wants to think or talk about their own mortality, but it’s not a bad idea to document the important stuff and let the folks know where to find what they need, and show your care for them.

And remember to spend time remembering your lost family member. Tell stories about what a good person they were and funny stories about their quirks and crazy habits. Tell stories of their mistakes – no one is perfect. But most of all appreciate someone’s life in its entirety. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Then hold onto the good and let all the other stuff go.

That’s what we did, and it was a great and fitting farewell to my Uncle Mac.


Photo credits: “s. urkel jerk by alex pardee” originally uploaded by N0 Photoshop

Incite 4 U

  1. Research timelines measured in decades, not zero days: In an instant gratification world, no one gets more instant gratification than computer attackers. Send phish, create botnet, do bad things quickly. Government can and should drive initiatives to address this gap, and help supplement private sector and university efforts. In the US those efforts are moving, as evidenced by the recent road map of cyber-security (that term still makes me throw up in my mouth a little) research priorities, as issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. But most security folks will ultimately be disappointed by any research efforts in our space. Why? Because we think in terms of zero days and reacting faster. Basic research doesn’t work like that. Those timelines are years, sometimes decades. Keep that in mind when assessing the success of any kind of basic research. – MR
  2. Worry when, on Android? Tom’s Hardware says Android Security: Worry, But Don’t Panic, Yet. So if not now, when? Google is in an apps arms race: They’re not slowing down to vet applications so we see a lot of malicious stuff. We know that anti-virus and anti-malware doesn’t work on mobile platforms. We’re not going to ride the same virus/patch merry-go-round we did with PCs – that’s clearly a failed security model. But so far we’re not doing much better – instead we have a “find malware/remove app” model. The only improvement is that users don’t pay for security bandaids. If Android does not fix security – both OS issues and app vetting – we’ll have Windows PC security all over again. But this will be on a much broader scale – there are far more mobile devices. The speed at which we install apps and share data means faster time to damage. So perhaps don’t worry today – but as a consumer you should be worried about using these devices for mobile payments, identity applications, or that health care app your HR department wants you to use. There is no reason to believe any of your data is safe. – AL
  3. SDN coming to a network near you… It’s very early, but software defined networks are going to have a big impact on how we protect stuff. We have been saying segmentation is your friend for years, but it has been pretty hard in practice. With new startups, like Embrane, starting to appear to help wire up this new generation of virtual networks, this will be a pretty interesting space to watch over the next few years. Obviously you don’t move to this kind of platform in a flash cut, but the initial use cases and migration plans will be laid down in 2012, especially for cloud and cloud-like service providers who need a lot more flexibility in building/scaling their networks. I suspect SDN will have a dramatic impact on how we provision and protect network services. Time to start learning about things like OpenFlow and other higher level abstraction layers. – MR
  4. Virtual currencies, not just for video games anymore: I have been writing a lot about mobile payments, both because I find the space fascinating from a technology standpoint, and because I believe everyone will be using this technology within the next few years. I think it will see the fastest adoption of any product in history, especially given the potential to help people in nations where geography and financial liquidity are issues. And I’m not the only one. Many believe mobile payments will be bigger than cash by 2015. Think about the size of this for a second – some people are already projecting volume three times as high as cash in just a couple years. Superseding an essential historical role of sovereign nations, credit card companies are now essentially issuing currency in the form of short term credit. Without the overhead of running mints. But cash has undergone centuries of advancement in fraud-detection and deterrence. Virtual currencies, not so much. We’ll be exchanging real money through little black boxes 99.9% of the population does not understand, on mobile applications provided by corporations. We have already seen new kinds of fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and entirely new forms of commerce in virtual environments (i.e., video games) and we expect to see them in the ‘real’ world. Rapid growth brings great opportunities for security folks – things will be interesting in security! – AL
  5. Must be cold in Thoma Bravo’s office, since they bought a Blue Coat: Yup, private equity firm Thoma Bravo has struck again taking Blue Coat private for $1.3 billion. They join Attachmate/Novell, LANDesk, Entrust, TripWire, and SonicWall in Thoma’s security portfolio. Historically, Thoma has not pushed for collaboration or rolling up its portfolio companies, instead allowing existing management to continue driving the business. Though there is a pretty good fit between Blue Coat and SonicWall, currently working to penetrate the enterprise market. Regardless, given the relative patience of the private equity investors, and the decent growth trends in the security space, it’s a pretty good bet that with the traditional leveraged structure of these acquisitions, Thoma will print a decent amount of money. And customers should continue to see business as usual, as that has been the pattern so far and we have no reason to expect it to change. – MR
  6. BONUS: holiday insulation: As it gets cold outside (unless you are in the southern hemisphere, of course), it’s time to check that insulation. Thankfully Seth Godin provided a quick and great reminder of what you should be insulating yourself against as we head into 2012. Two of my favorites: “anonymous angry people” and “Lead, don’t manage so much.” Godin really is the philosopher king of the online generation, so you’d be well served to read his blog and pay attention to his guidance. Remember, it’s cold out there… – MR