21 days. It doesn’t seem like a long time. In the day to day grind of my routine, 3 weeks is nothing. I basically blink and that much time passes. But when your kids are away at camp it is a long time. For us day 21 is a lifesaver because it’s the first visiting day. So last weekend we packed up the car and made the trek to Pennsylvania to see the kids.

For 21 days, we were in parental purgatory. We wait and we worry and we look at pictures and we make up all sorts of stories about what the kids are doing, based on thos pictures and a couple 2-sentence letters. That’s what parents do. So after 21 days, we finally get to compare reality to our made-up vision of what they are doing. Just to give you a little flavor for the kinds of letters we receive, XX2 wrote this missive to her Grandma (slightly edited for readability, but not much):

Grandma, Please send make-up. I need lipstick and eyeshadow and hairspray. I’ve had to borrow from the other girls. I’m helpless without makeup. Love, XX2

Helpless?!? What a character. Though we had a decision to make – to send the make-up or not. Of course we sent her make-up. Actually, the Boss was very surprised because at home I’m very anti-makeup. My kids are beautiful without needing to look like street walkers. But they are at camp to find themselves. To do the things they want to do, without their parents micromanaging every move. Even if it involves wearing make-up – so be it.

The good news is the kids are doing great. Really great. Even the Boy, who is away for the first time. His counselors said he was quiet for the first two weeks, while he figured out which end was up. But now that he’s comfortable with everyone, he’s pretty talkative. The girls are camp pros by now, and they are having the time of their lives. XX2 got a big part in the play, and XX1 has made the Boss very happy by being in the middle of every picture she’s in and flashing a huge smile.

In another 21 days, we’ll return to camp for the second visiting day and to pick up the girls. Then we’ll do the long drive back to GA and get back into the routine of school and activities. For us, the next 21 days will be agonizingly slow. For them, they will pass in the blink of an eye. And they’ll enjoy every second of it.


Photo credits: Welcome to Camp originally uploaded by Altus Wilder

Incite 4 U

  1. Security vs. Convenience: This post on scaling by one of the Dropbox ops guys was very interesting. Counter-intuitively adding “fake” load prematurely only to remove the extra load when you run out of capacity is an interesting tactic to buy some time. Also the ideas of actually testing the edge cases and logging all sorts of stuff (even if you don’t know how you’ll use the data) will help to put our scaling efforts in perspective when we have Nexus scaling problems, that is. But it’s the last paragraph that is pretty problematic (and explains how privacy issues and obfuscation happen). He says that “security is really important for Dropbox,” but then goes into a riff on making trade-offs based on how important security is to the service. Let’s be clear, security isn’t important to any emerging service until they screw something up. Then security is very important. Which is why trying to build a security program in an organization that’s never had a security problem can be the Impossible Dream (h/t to Don Quixote). – MR
  2. Cry havoc and let slip the honeypots of war:: Playing defense all the time is a real pain in the behind. No one enjoys just sitting there until some dumb ass wielding Metasploit comes by and owns you. At the same time, never underestimate the marketing power of the latest security meme. One of these hot topics is the concept of active defense, which can technically mean a whole host of things as described by Chris Hoff in his latest post (that also references one of my posts). As this conversation picks up I think it’s important to remember that these principles, and even sometimes technologies, have been around for a while. The problem has often been they lack the automation to make them truly useful. Too complex, too manual. That’s starting to change, and I think most organizations will adopt active defenses fairly soon. As for Chris’ OODA loop reference… well let’s just say I have more to write on that. – RM
  3. Browser Security is more than sandboxing: Reading the Which Browser is Safest on nakedsecurity I was non-plussed as there are several important ways to judge browser security not even discussed in the post. Sandboxing is certainly one element, but there is no discussion of XSS or CSRF. And there are the reputation based protections, to detect things like malware and bad certificates. Perhaps more importantly, there is still no real equivalent to NoScript on Chrome or IE, which is the last reason I continue to cling to Firefox while most people I know have long since moved to Chrome. Then there is the rest of the privacy side of the equation. Ironic that someone on nakedsecurity is discussing browser security when their site source cross-links to eight or so other sites and feeds your browser with another 8 ghost cookies. As bad as Firefox is, at least my add-ons allow me to block most of the data I don’t want sites having on me and my browser. – AL
  4. The challenge of asymmetry: Greg Ferro summarize the issues of doing security pretty effectively in Basics:Threat Asymmetry and Security Posture. Yes, it’s a pretty simple concept, but when you spend all day in your reversing tool or knee deep in PCAP files, sometimes it’s hard to take a broader look at the fundamental issues facing us. Greg’s reminder that it’s a lot cheaper to attack than to protect and that basic asymmetry means that we’re going to continue facing attacks from both advanced attackers and script kiddies alike. It also shows why it’s hard to turn off existing controls (like AV), even if they aren’t overly useful against certain classes of attackers. Good times. Good times. – MR
  5. Don’t shoot the messenger: The analyst gig is a weird job for reasons I won’t really waste your time on now. Suffice it to say, the job often resembles working on the factory line. The screw size might change, but the wrist twist stays the same. And it isn’t just us analyst types; many of you security line folks see all the same marketing materials we do, sometimes on just as frequent a basis. Wendy Nather captures this experience oh so perfectly in an old post on product presentations. I know there will always be similarities between presentations since many of the same facts need to be communicated, but I think we’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. I almost always try to knock people off the standard track by trying to get them to skip to the important parts, and I can tell the quality of the marketing or sales person on their ability to adapt to our non-linear way of learning about something. If you are going to remake 21 Jump Street, at least be self-aware about it. – RM
  6. Who’s to Blame?: Do passwords suck as a defensive mechanism? Hell yes. When users use crappy passwords, and then propagate crappiness across the Internet, it’s a recipe for account compromise. But the degree of exposure of said poop would not be so bad if the companies who stored those passwords did not leak them, or used effective hashing tools to protect them when they are leaked. It’s frustrating that users find passwords too complicated to use effectively, but that’s where we are. The stories mentioned above will repeat indefinitely until we put passwords into our rear-view mirror. There are other ways authenticate and validate identity; ones that don’t require users to think too much, nor allow merchants to handle information they’ve demonstrated they can’t keep safe. – AL
  7. The when and where of counter offensive: How many folks do you know that would let someone walk up to them and punch them in the nose, and do nothing? Right, I don’t know many either. But that’s basically what we do as security folks every day. Folks constantly come up to our networks, gut punch us, and we just take it. There are a number of emerging tools that provide the ability to attack the attackers, but Will Gragido points out some of the slippery slope of the counter offensive (CO). Things like attribution, which is a lot easier when you are on the other end of a right cross. Behind a scad of proxies, TOR nodes, and other means of obfuscation, really understanding who is attacking you can be hard. Yet, the reality remains that organizations under attack don’t have enough time to defend, and their first response probably shouldn’t be to strike back. It’s about containing the damage. Reacting Faster and Better usually doesn’t leave a lot of time to pwn your attacker. – MR
  8. BONUS: Fake Monitoring: The FNG at 451 has been on fire lately. Javvad Malik definitely is making an impression with his video on building slides (based on Wendy’s post mentioned by Rich above), and also this post on basically faking your way to security success. The only thing missing here is the 3 envelopes. Nice to have a new (funny) voice in the pontificating game. – MR