Most folks have sights, sounds, and smells that remind them of positive experiences. Maybe from happy childhood days or a great time of life. For me, it’s the smell of the ocean. My Dad always had a boat and I remember some great times sailing on his catamaran as I was growing up. I didn’t spend a lot of time with my Dad growing up, so I loved being out on the water. And we’d bring a bucket of KFC with us, which was also a highlight. Strange, the things you remember 35 years later, eh?

But that’s not all. I met the Boss at the beach and spent many a great summer on the Delaware beaches. What I remember of those summers anyway. So when we arrive at the beach for our annual family vacation, one of the first things I do is walk down to the beach, sit on a bench, and just breathe in the air. I’m instantly relaxed. In fact, when I travel I use a sound machine to eliminate the noise of strange hotels and weirdos in adjoining rooms. Surprised that I sleep to Ocean Waves Crashing? Yeah, me neither.

Of course I am surrounded by family for an entire week, so that feeling is fleeting, but the beach calms me. It’s one of the things I really miss about living in Atlanta – the lack of easily accessible beaches. But before you conclude that I don’t like my family, that’s not true. As I was explaining to some folks at last week’s Atlanta NAISG meeting, it’s hard for me to be surrounded by people for an extended period of time. I’m pretty much a textbook introvert, and that means if I don’t get my private time, it can get messy. So even if I like the people I’m around (and I do like my family, well, most of them…), I still need some time to myself.

So I have set expectations over 15+ years of marriage, that I usually peel off each morning for a cup of coffee and to catch up on some work. Yes, I’m one of those guys who works on vacation. Not a lot, maybe a couple hours a day. But enough to not fall terribly behind and to get my private time. And before you start thinking about my workaholic issues, remember that I actually enjoy what I do. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like work to me.

As I sit in a coffee shop, about to head down to the boardwalk with the family this afternoon, I bang out the Incite and everything is perfect. Perfect doesn’t last and it doesn’t scale, so I’ll enjoy it while it’s here. Now where’s that sunscreen again?


Photo credits: What’s That Smell? originally uploaded by ambergris

Heavy Research

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

Understanding and Selecting Data Masking

Pragmatic Key Management

Evolving Endpoint Malware Detection

Defending Data on iOS

Malware Analysis Quant

Incite 4 U

  1. Or maybe build a cyber-guillotine: It seems the folks over in the UK did a study that concluded too much is spent on AV and not enough on prosecuting online criminals. Obviously no one is going to argue that spending more on controls with limited effectiveness is a plan for success. But will going after perpetrators with more urgency help? Will a few more midnight raids on high-profile hackers prevent the next generation of malcontents from joining fraud networks? I say it’s worth a try, though in an instant gratification environment it’ll be hard to prove the success of that approach in the average politician’s term of office. But even in places with severe consequences such as losing limbs, we still have desperate folks and bad apples committing crimes, consequences be damned. But I do think folks who could go either way might make the right decision if they have a better (and more tangible) understanding of what the wrong decision may mean. – MR
  2. Moley moley moley mole MOLE! (Apologies for the only slightly-obscure reference in the title). I hate debunking hyperbole that’s probably also true. Such as Mikko Hypponen’s assertion that the US government probably has moles in Microsoft. He doesn’t have a single shred of evidence to support his logical conclusion. Then again, I’d be shocked if various agencies from various countries haven’t placed people in all sorts of companies. Is there backdoor code hidden in products? Who knows… although places like Microsoft with strong software assurance programs are much less likely to let something get through unknowingly. This is a complex issue, and pure supposition doesn’t really advance the discussion. Let’s admit that none of us really know what we are talking about, and the people who do aren’t talking. – RM
  3. Attacks come and go, but the monoculture is eternal: Great analysis by Augusto (finally able to dig through my Instapaper archives on ‘vacation’) on the impact of Chrome becoming the most popular browser. Basically, like mobile operating systems, browsers are being built with better protection, and with 4-5 main players there is huge fragmentation. So attackers (wisely) continue to focusing on the lowest hanging fruit: widely deployed apps with huge market penetration. Right, like Adobe Flash and Reader. Augusto references Dan Geer’s seminal monoculture essay, and the point is exactly right. There will always be high market share products/devices/widgets which represent the most attractive targets. HTML 5 will provide standards and get rid of things like Flash, but to think you can’t attack the successors (including HTML5 in browsers) is naive. So the attacks will change. The motivations of attackers change too, over time. But there will always be something else to attack. That never changes. – MR
  4. Spies like us: I hate when reporters discuss a Gartner report without linking to it. Having been a Gartner analyst for a long time, I know they usually cherry-pick the analysis for headlines, and which aren’t necessarily what the analyst meant. Like this article predicting 60% of organizations will monitor employee social media usage for security issues by 2015. Reading between the lines, this is probably a Strategic Planning Assumption. These are qualitative predictions designed to give folks an idea of where things are headed in the future. Andrew Walls is a great analyst and so I think he probably wrote something like, “60% of organizations will monitor social media activity for security breaches by 2015 (0.8 p).” That last bit would be an estimated probability. Anyway, whatever the number he’s right. If you aren’t integrating this into your web monitoring you need to. You don’t need to spy, but you certainly need to watch that vector. Then again, he might have meant something completely different – we can’t see the report. – RM
  5. Be prepared for malware hand-to-hand combat: An interesting story on the AVG blog about a little interaction one of their researchers had with a malware writer while analyzing malware. I have been doing a lot of research into malware analysis this year, and obviously there is always a chance, when playing with live ammo, that it will detonate. It turns out the particular malware in question had a number of extra ‘features’ – including real-time chat, screen capture, mouse control, and camera functionality. Obviously this gives the attacker total control of the device, even down to snooping on you doing a happy dance in your skivvies (or worse). So as much as we like to think of faceless,automated machines stealing all this stuff, there is still a lot of virtual smash and grab, where an attacker rifles through a machine. If you like to play with malware, be prepared for a little hacker facetime. – MR