It’s been over a month since I wrote an Incite. It’ is the longest period of downtime since I joined Securosis. I could talk about my workload, which is bonkers right now. But over the years I’ve written the Incite regardless of workload. I could talk about excessive travel, but I haven’t been traveling nearly as much as last year. I could come up with lots of excuses, but as I tell my kids all the time, “I’m not in the excuses business.”

Here’s the reality: I needed a break. I have plenty to write about, but I found reasons not to write. There is a ton of stuff going on in security, so there were many interesting snippets I let fly right on by. But I didn’t write it, and I didn’t really question it. What I needed was what my Tao teacher calls a pause.

Hit the pause button

You could need a pause for lots of reasons. Sometimes you have been running too hard for too long. Sometimes you need to change things up a bit because the status quo makes you unhappy. Sometimes you need some space to recalibrate and figure out what you want to do and where you want to go. Of course, this could be for very little things, like writing the Incite every week. Or very big things. But without taking a pause, you don’t have the space to make objective decisions.

You are reading this, so obviously I am writing the Incite. So during my pause, it became clear that the Incite is an important part of what I do. But it’s bigger than that. It’s an important part of who I am. I have shared the good and the not so good through the years. I have met people who tell me they have experienced what I write about, and it’s helpful for them to commiserate – even if it’s virtual. Some tell me they learn through my Incites, and there is nothing more flattering. But it’s not why I write the Incite.

I write the Incite for me. I always have. It’s a journal of sorts representing my life, my views, and my situation at any given time. Every so often I go back a couple years and read my old stuff. It reminds me of what things were like back then. It’s useful because I don’t spend much time looking backwards. It’s interesting to see how different I am now. Some people journal in private. I do that too. But I have found my public journal is important to me.

The pause is over. I’m pushing Play. In the coming months there will be really cool stuff to share and some stuff that will be hard to communicate. But that’s life. You take the good and the bad without judgement. You move forward. At least I do. So stay tuned. The next few months are going to be very interesting, for so many reasons.


Photo credit: “Pause? 272/265” originally uploaded by Dennis Skley

The fine folks at the RSA Conference posted the talk Jennifer Minella and I did on mindfulness at the 2014 conference. You can check it out on YouTube. Take an hour and check it out. Your emails, alerts and Twitter timeline will be there when you get back.

Securosis Firestarter

Have you checked out our new video podcast? Rich, Adrian, and Mike get into a Google Hangout and.. hang out. We talk a bit about security as well. We try to keep these to 15 minutes or less, and usually fail.

Heavy Research

We are back at work on a variety of blog series, so here is a list of the research currently underway. Remember you can get our Heavy Feed via RSS, with our content in all its unabridged glory. And you can get all our research papers too.

Cracking the Confusion

Applied Threat Intelligence

Network Security Gateway Evolution

Newly Published Papers

Incite 4 U

(Note: Don’t blame Rich or Adrian for the older Incite… They got me stuff on time – it just took me a month to post it. You know, that pause I talked about above.)

  1. There are no perfect candidates… There is no such thing as perfect security, so why would there be perfect security candidates? Our friend Andy Ellis, CISO of Akamai, offers a refreshing perspective on recruiting security professionals. Andy focuses on passion over immediate competence. If a person loves what they do they can learn the rest. I think that’s great, especially given the competition for those with the right certifications and keywords on their CVs. Andy also chooses to pay staffers fairly instead of pushing them to find other jobs as their skills increase. Again, very smart given the competition for security staff. The #1 issue we hear from CISO types, over and over, is the lack of staff / recruiting challenge. So you need to find folks in places others aren’t looking, and invest in them – knowing a few will leave for greener pastures at some point. That’s all part of the game. – MR
  2. No love: Another encryption vendor got rolled up recently, with Voltage security acquired by HP. But before you lose your train of thought, with jokes about how HP is where tech companies go to die – yeah, we heard a lot of that in the last 24 hours – note this is occurring with encryption firms of all sizes. In case you missed it, Porticor was acquired by Intuit the week before the HP/Voltage deal. And before that, Safenet to GemaltoEntrust to Datacard, and Gazzang went to Cloudera. You would think selling data encryption in the age of data breaches would be like giving ice cream to kids on a hot day, but the truth is selling is hard because implementing it is hard. Customers view encryption as a commodity, with one AES variant the same as every other, and complain bitterly about cost and key management headaches. Encryption platforms have matured steadily over the last 10 years, and continually evolved to include format preserving encryption, tokenization, transparent encryption, dynamic masking, key storage, and management, all while integrating with storage systems, apps, applications, cloud services and ‘big data’. The trend is clearly to bake data encryption in, but innovation and growing demand for data security mean this market is far from settled. – AL
  3. Bring Your Own Key: I’m a big fan of the cloud, and of encryption, which is why I’m excited to see Box announce their new Enterprise Key Management product. First a little full disclosure: I have known about this for a while and I done some work with Box (which was not a secret). That said, it isn’t like I get paid more if anyone buys the service from them. I’ve been on record for a few years as not a fan of proxy-based encryption for cloud computing. Shoving an appliance (or service) between your users and the cloud platform so you can encrypt a few fields seems like a kludge prone to breaking application functionality. But almost no providers allow customers to manage their own encryption in a way that can protect against misuse by the provider (or snoops, criminal or government). Box’s EKM enables customers to control their own encryption keys, but all the actual work happens within Box. This reduces the likelihood the application will break. It isn’t necessarily completely subpoena proof, but there is no way for anyone besides you to see your data unless you release the key. Amazon is one of the only other cloud providers supporting customer managed keys, and I really hope this trend grows. But as Mike says, “Hope is not a strategy”, so vote with your dollars if you want more customer-controlled cloud key management. – RM
  4. Vulnerability management, still kicking…: I have voiced my disappointment with the fact that modern product reviews are consistently cursory, and rarely useful for procurement decisions. That doesn’t stop folks like SC Mag from continuing to review products, like their recent Vulnerability Management review. Yes, vulnerability management is still a thing – even if Gartner doesn’t think so anymore. That being said, the major players in the market are changing direction, and they all seem to be going in different directions. One is climbing the stack, another focused on identity, a third morphing into a services driven shop, and yet another preoccupied with executive level dashboards. And yes, they all still scan your stuff and generate long reports of stuff you’ll never get to. Same old, same old. Although as you are looking to renew your product and/or service, it makes sense to actually learn about the longer term strategy of your chosen vendor to ensure it still aligns with what you need. If not, make a change since it’s not like all of the vendors can’t scan your stuff. – MR
  5. Smart cards, disrupted: It’s happening again; the threat of EMV cards. The Smart Card Alliance position is the liability shift for not using EMV will push adoption within mass merchants, while Visa representatives claim 525 million cards will be in the ‘ecosystem’ by the end of 2015. Bull$#!*. For the sake of round numbers say there are about 300 million US citizens – minus those under 18 – which would require each US adult to get two Chip and PIN cards over the next 10 months. Even if the US government issues an ID for every citizen, that milestone is not going to happen. Nor will merchants move fast enough with new terminals to support the cards. I understand the smart card industry’s angst – EMV needs to move or be get over in the US. Apple Pay basically virtualized Chip and PIN for payments, simultaneously showing consumers a model for health and ID cards pushed into mobile devices with less cost and pain. It’s not a new idea by any stretch, but Apple upended a bunch of firms who were positioning for the future. As Apple does from time to time. – AL
  6. Eye of Sauron: Big breaches happen, and no matter what anyone tells you they aren’t going way… ever. The goal of your security program is to minimize the potential damage because it can’t be eliminated. Even with all the high-profile breaches, there’s a lack of motivation for companies, even in regulated industries, to protect their data. Everyone ignored the HIPAA security requirements for years and years, until HITECH put baby teeth in place. But heck, with entirely too many friends still in healthcare, even that threat isn’t enough to be a true catalyst for action. So I’m always interested in events that change the economics of security. Like one of the biggest insurance markets taking a close look at insurer cybersecurity. Nothing may happen here – it isn’t like Elliot Spitzer is back in charge, kicking ass and (er… spanking… no… not going to say it) taking names (no mention of black books either…), but it only takes a couple state regulators in the right markets to move the needle and drive change. – RM