Everything is a game nowadays. Not like Words with Friends (why yes, since you ask – I do enjoy getting my ass kicked by the women in my life) or even Madden Mobile (which the Boy plays constantly) – I’m talking about gamification. In our security world, the idea is that rank and file employees will actually pay attention to security stuff they don’t give a rat’s ass about… if you make it all into a game. So get departments to compete for who can do best in the phishing simulation. Or give a bounty to the team with the fewest device compromises due to surfing pr0n. Actually, though, it might be more fun to post the link that compromised the machine in the first place. The employee with the nastiest NSFW link would win. And get fired… But I digress.

I find that I do play these games. But not on my own device. I’m kind of obsessed with Starbucks’ loyalty program. If you accumulate 12 stars you get a free drink. It’s a great deal for me. I get a large brewed coffee most days. I don’t buy expensive lattes, and I get the same star for every drink I buy. And if I have the kids with me, I’ll perform 3 or 4 different transactions, so I can get multiple stars. When I get my reward drink, I get a 7 shot Mocha. Yes, 7 shots. I’m a lot of fun in the two hours after I drink my reward.

And then Starbucks sends out promotions. For a while, if you ordered a drink through their mobile app, you’d get an extra star. So I did. I’d sit in their store, bust open my phone, order the drink, and then walk up to the counter and get it. Win! Extra star! Sometimes they’d offer 3 extra stars if you bought a latte drink, an iced coffee, and a breakfast sandwich within a 3-day period. Well, a guy’s gotta eat, right? And I was ordering the iced coffee anyway in the summer. Win! Three bonus stars. Sometimes they’d send a request for a survey and give me a bunch of stars for filling it out. Win! I might even be honest on the survey… but probably not. As long as I get my stars, I’m good.

Yes, I’m gaming the system for my stars. And I have two reward drinks waiting for me, so evidently it’s working. I’m going to be in Starbucks anyway, and drinking coffee anyway – I might as well optimize for free drinks.

Oh crap, what the hell have I become? A star whore? Ugh. Let’s flip that perspective. I’m the Star Lord. Yes! I like that. Who wants to be Groot?

Pretty much every loyalty program gets gamed. If you travel like I do, you have done the Dec 30 or 31 mileage run to make the next level in a program. You stay in a crappy Marriott 20 miles away from your meeting, instead of the awesome hotel right next to the client’s office. Just to get the extra night. You do it. Everyone does.

And now it’s a cat and mouse game. The airlines change their programs every 2-3 years, to force customers to find new ways to optimize milage accumulation. Starbucks is changing their program to reward customers based on what they spend. The nerve of them. Now it will take twice as long to get my reward drinks. Until I figure out how to game this version of the program. And I will, because to me gaming their game is the game.


Photo credit: “Star-Lord ord” from Dex

We’ve published this year’s Securosis Guide to the RSA Conference. It’s our take on the key themes you’ll see at this year’s conference (which is really a proxy for the industry), as well as deep dives on cloud security, threat protection, and data security. And there is a ton of meme goodness… Check out the blog post or download the guide directly (PDF).

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. Your emails, alerts, and Twitter timeline will be there when you get back.

Securosis Firestarter

Have you checked out our 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.

Securing Hadoop

SIEM Kung Fu

Building a Threat Intelligence Program

Recently Published Papers

Incite 4 U

  1. An expensive lie: Many organizations don’t really take security seriously. It has never been proven that breaches cause lost business (correlation is not causation), nor have compliance penalties been sufficient to spur action. Is that changing? Maybe. You can see a small payment processor like Dwolla getting fined $100K for falsely claiming that “information is securely encrypted and stored”. Is $100K enough? Does it need to be $100MM? I don’t know, but at some point these regulations should have enough teeth taht companies start to take them seriously. But you have to wonder, if a fintech start-up isn’t “securely encrypting and storing” customer data, what the hell are they doing? – MR
  2. Payment tokens for you and me: NFC World is reporting that Visa will retire alternate PANs issued to host card emulators for mobile payments, without giving an actual EOL date. We have been unable to verify this announcement, but it’s not surprising because that specification is at odds with EMVco’s PAR tokenization approach, which we discussed last year – which is leveraged by ApplePay, SamsungPay, and others. This is pretty much the end of host card emulation and any lingering telco secure element payment schemes. What is surprising many people is the fact that, if you read Visa and Mastercard’s recent announcements, they are both positioning themselves as cloud-based security vendors – offering solutions for identity and payment in cars, wearables, and other mobile devices. Visa’s Tokenization ServicesMastercard’s tokens, and several payment wallets all leverage PAR tokens provided by various Tokenization-as-a-Service offerings. And issuing banks are buying this service as well! For security and compliance folks this is good news, because the faster this conversion happens, the faster the enterprise can get rid of credit cards. And once those are gone, so too are all the supporting security functions you need to manage. Security vendors, take note: you have new competitors in mobile device security services. – AL
  3. Well, at least the pace of tech innovation is slowing… I can do nothing but laugh at the state of security compliance. The initiative that actually provided enough detail to help lost organizations move forward, the PCI-DSS, is evidently now very mature. So mature that they don’t need another major update. Only minor updates, with long windows to implement them, because.. well, just because. These retailers are big and they move slowly. But attackers move and innovate fast. So keeping our current low bar forever seems idiotic. Attackers are getting better, so we need to keep raising the bar, and I don’t know how that will happen now. I guess it will take another wave of retailer hacks to shake things up again. Sad. – MR
  4. No need to encrypt: Future Tense captures the essence of Amazon’s removal of encryption from Fire devices: Inexpensive parts, like weak processors, would be significantly burdened when local encryption was on, and everything would slow down. This is not about bowing to federal pressure – it is cost-cutting on a money-losing device. And let’s be honest – these are not corporate devices, and no one reading this allows Amazon Fires onto their business networks. Not every mobile device deserves security hardening. Most people have a handful of devices with throw-away data, and convenience devices need very little security. The handful of people I know with Kindle or Fire devices consider them mobile infotainment systems – the only data on the device is a Gmail account, which has already been hacked, and the content they bought from Amazon. Let’s pick our battles. – AL
  5. I don’t get it, but QUANTUM! I wish I knew more about things like quantum computing, and that I had time to read papers and the like to get informed. Evidently progress is being made on new quantum computing techniques that will make current encryption obsolete. Now they have a 5-atom quantum computer. I have no idea what that even means, but it sounds cool. Is it going to happen tomorrow? Nope. I won’t be able to get a quantum computer from Amazon for a while, but the promise of these new technologies to upend the way we have always done things is useful reminder. Don’t get attached to anything. Certainly not technology, because it’s not going to be around for long. Whichever technology we’re talking about. – MR