Diversity in Asia: Enough to Phase Ya.

All countries and the people who live in them are different. I think we’re all clear on that. Some countries and peoples differ from others more so, others less so. History, religion, traditions, customs, business – all have different grades of differentness. Business differences can stretch from one end of the spectrum to the other – from liberality and business freedom to strictness and extreme state regulation. Vive la difference! But the degree of diversity across a region can vary…

Let’s take Europe. Or Latin America. Within these regions countries of course differ, but if we step back and view the regions as wholes, we see they’re still in a lot of ways similar. However, that is not the case for one region of the world: Asia. Thing is, many from outside Asia don’t realize this, and make the mistake of thinking Asia on the whole is much like Europe is on the whole – only Asian. It isn’t. No way. Asian countries differ from each other much more than, say, France and Germany, or Paraguay and Peru. Even Brazil, the USA and Spain resemble each other more than, for example, India, South Korea, and Indonesia. Over in Asia, things are a lot more variegated. Which makes it all the more interesting…

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I get a real kick out of the diversity of impressions, traditions, and business rituals in Asia. Even the basics are strange yet crazy cool; for example, how to correctly make folks’ acquaintance and exchange business cards. Yep, I just love Asian diversity and divergence.

Read on: united colors of partners…

Darwinism in IT Security, Pt. 3: Time to Deal with These No-Good Parasites.

Hi all!

On a bit of a roll here on the survival-of-the-fittest-in-IT theme. Wasn’t planning a trilogy… it just kinda happened. Sort of…

…Sort of, as, well, the specific problem of parasites in the IT Security world I’ll be writing about today has been at the back of my mind for a long time already. This Darwinism talk seemed the perfect opportunity to finally let rip. You’ll see what I mean…

Today folks: parasites. But not those we’re fighting against (the ‘very’ bad guys); those who claim are also fighting the very bad guys (philosophical question: who’s worse?).

Infosec parasites practicing detection adoption is killing the industry and indirectly assisting cybercrime

The IT industry today is developing at a galloping pace. Just 10-15 years ago its main themes were desktop antiviruses, firewalls and backups; today there’s a mass of new different security solutions, approaches and ideas. Sometimes we manage to stay ahead of the curve; sometimes we have some catch-up to do. And there are other times we fall into a stupor from astonishment – not from new technologies, innovations or fresh ideas, but from the barefaced brazenness and utter unscrupulousness of our colleagues in the security industry.

But first, let me explain how events have been developing.

There’s a very useful service called the VirusTotal multiscanner. It aggregates around 60 antivirus engines, which it uses to scan files and URLs folks send it for malware checking, and then it returns the verdict.

Example: Joe Bloggs finds a suspicious application or office document on a hard drive/USB stick/the Internet. Joe’s own antivirus software doesn’t flag it as containing a malware, but Joe is the paranoid type; he wants to make really sure it’s not infected. So he heads over to the VirusTotal site, which doesn’t have just one antivirus solution like he does, but ~60. It’s free too, so it’s a no brainer. So Joe uploads the file to VirusTotal and gets instant info on what all the different AVs think about it.

First of all, to clarify: both the folks at VirusTotal and those at VirusTotal’s owners Google are firmly on the ‘good guys’ side. They have no connection with parasites whatsoever. VirusTotal is run by a very professional team, which has for years been fulfilling the task at hand extremely effectively. (Still need convincing? How about VirusTotal winning the MVP award last year at the Security Analyst Summit (SAS)?) Today VirusTotal is one of the most important sources of new malware samples and malicious URLs; and also a very cool archeological tool for researching targeted attacks.

The problem lies with a handful of shady users of the multiscanner who, alas, are becoming more and more unblushingly unabashed in how they conduct themselves.

Read on: Things getting interesting… for wrong reasons

Knocking on Space’s Door.

The idea of space travel has been knocking about in the back of my brain for quite a few years now, in fact since the time when Sir Richard Branson was sponsoring the Brawn GP Formula One Team. Back then we (KL) were mulling over getting into F-1 sponsorship (which we eventually did get into by sponsoring Scuderia Ferrari) and I met RB at a race. To cut a long story short, after a good bit of banter I ended up buying a ticket from his good offices – for a trip into space!

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Since then, I’ve managed to bone up and get some practice in on space-related themes by experiencing weightlessness (in an IL-76), witnessing the launch of a Soyuz from Baikonur, and visiting the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.

Weightlessness is just awesome, and I had no real problems getting the knack of it. But to dock a Soyuz trainer to a mock-up International Space Station – I couldn’t crack that: I couldn’t get the hang of the management console there. It seems space engineers have no clue about user experience and A/B testing :).

In the meantime, a cosmodrome was built for Virgin Galactic. This isn’t too large as only sub-orbital planes are planned to be launched from it. There’ve already been test flights, glamorous presentations, and other assorted good news stories coming out of it. Then there was some very bad news; then there was a long silence for some 18 months.

Then, just the other day, out of the blue space, I received a communication of cosmic importance! (They don’t forget about their clients – already a good sign. But it gets better…)

Read on: Dear astronaut…

Darwinism in IT Security – Pt. 2: Inoculation from BS.

Hi folks!

As promised, herewith, more on the connection between evolution theory and how protection against cyberthreats develops.

To date, what precisely brings about mutations of living organisms is unknown. Some of the more unconventional experts reckon it’s the work of viruses, which intentionally rearrange genes (yep, there’s who really rules the world!). But whatever the case may be, similar mutation processes also occur in IT Security – sometimes with the help of viruses too.

The market is tired of prophets; these days monetizing ‘panaceas’ requires a lot more investment and marketing efforts

In line with the best traditions of the principle of the struggle for existence, security technologies evolve over time: new categories of products appear, others become extinct, while some products merge with others. Regarding the latter for example, integrity checkers were a major breakthrough in the mid-90s, but nowadays they’re a minor part of endpoint solutions. New market segments and niches appear (for example, Anti-APT) to complement the existing arsenals of protective technologies – this being a normal process of positive symbiosis for good. But all the while nasty parasites crawl out of the woodwork to warm themselves in the sun. C’est la vie – as it’s always been, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In the struggle for market share in IT Security there regularly appear prophets prophesizing a sudden end to ‘traditional’ technologies and – by happy chance – simultaneous (‘just in time!’) invention of a bullshit product revolutionary panacea (with generous discounts for the first five customers).

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But this isn’t something new: any of you remember anti-spyware? In the early 2000s a huge bubble of products to get rid of spyware grew up from nothing. Much BS was fired the consumer’s way about the inability of ‘traditional antivirus’ to cope with this particular problem, but right from the beginning it was all just made up.

But the market has grown used to and tired of such prophets, and these days monetizing ‘panaceas’ requires a lot more investment and snake oil marketing efforts.

Read on: David and Don Draper Against Goliath…

Korea to Switzerland on Turkish.

Quite a flight the other day night for us – 11 hours up in the air!

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Looking at the flightpath got me thinking… I wonder why our trajectory was so straight. If we were to fly via southern Siberia it would have been shorter, thus quicker – probably by around two hours. Is it that Turkish Airlines don’t want to pay the Russian overflight fees? Or is it geopolitical? These musings led to further questions on this topic:

  1. On the Seoul–Istanbul route how many kilometers would you save if you were to fly in a northerly arc, and how many minutes or hours would you save?
  2. How much would the fee be for a Boeing 777 to cross Russia from the border with northeastern Mongolia and Novorossiysk (on the opposite side of the Black Sea to Turkey)?
  3. Or is it all geopolitical based on ‘principle’?

Anyone know the answers?

Read on: Anyway, what does it matter really?…

Darwinism in IT Security: Adapt or Die.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable to change.”
– Charles Darwin

It’s been a while since I’ve opined on these here cyber-pages on my favorite topic – the future of IT Security, so here’s making up for that. Get ready for a lot of words – hopefully none too extraneous – on the latest Infosec tech, market and tendencies, with a side dish of assorted facts and reflections. Popcorn at the ready – off we go…

I’ll be writing here about ideal IT Security and how the security industry is evolving towards it (and what’s happening along that evolutionary road towards it), and how all that can be explained with the help of Mr. Darwin’s theory of evolution. How natural selection leads certain species to dominate, while others fall by the wayside – left for the paleontologists in years to come. Oh, and what is symbiosis, and what are parasites.

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I’ll start with some definitions…

Almost-Perfection in an Imperfect World.

Perfect protection – 100% security – is impossible. The IT Security industry can and should of course aim for perfection, in the process creating the best-protected systems possible, but each inching nearer 100% costs exponentially more – so much more that the cost of protection winds up being greater than the cost of potential damage from the harshest of scenarios of a successful attack.

Ideal protection is that where the cost of a successful attack is greater than the gain

Accordingly, it’s logical to give the following definition of realistic (attainable) ideal protection (from the viewpoint of potential victims): Ideal protection is that where the cost to hack our system is greater than the cost of the potential damage that could be caused. Or, looking at it from the other side of the barricades: Ideal protection is that where the cost of a successful attack is greater than the gain attackers would receive.

Of course, there’ll be times when how much an attack may cost doesn’t matter to the attackers; for example, to state-backed cyberwar-mongers. But that doesn’t mean we just give up.

So how do we develop a security system that provides realistic (attainable) ideal (maximum) protection?

Read on: The survival of IT’s fittest…

I Know You Got Seoul.

I hardly ever take the subway/metro/underground, no matter where I am in the world. My usual MO is~: plane – car – hotel (or home) – car – office – car – hotel (or home) – car – plane… I do use those trains that ferry folks between airport terminals quite a bit, but city metros – nope.

But just the other day in Seoul someone suggested we take a ride on the metro. The nearest station was just 200-300 meters from our hotel, so we thought why not?!

What can I say? Well, though I’ve been spoiled by having Moscow’s monumental metro on under my doorstep, I can still say that Seoul’s ‘Metropolitan Subway’ really is quite something. New and modern-looking, neat, tidy, comfortable, and massive. Though opened only in 1974 it’s more than twice the size of Moscow’s ever-expanding metro, and one-and-a-half the size of London’s Tube. Whoa. The Koreans sure can dig :).

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Read on: Third busiest in the world!…

Tokyo – Seoul.

This time in Japan, there were no Top-100isms, no day trips, no walks… no time-off. It was all conferences, meetings, interviews and other assorted shigoto (仕事), that is, work.

Before coming over to the land of the rising sun this time, I was hoping the tempo would be less hectic than usual, with more freedom for relaxed beholding of historical and natural landscapes, meditative evening strolls, cherry blossoms and so on. Right. The further into the trip, the further I seemed to get away from any chance of seeing things like Mount Fuji or Aogashima, and deeper into ‘all shigoto, shigoto, shigoto‘. Which is also good, of course, but… well, look what happened to Jack!

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The only bit of micro-tourism I did get in was a quick march along my favorite route outside/round the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Read on: Tokyo by night…

360-Degree Tokyo.

This is a first…

Early this morning I got to see a full panoramic view of Tokyo from a high up in a skyscraper-hotel!

Normally you only get to see one side of the city; however, this time my travel companion A. Sh. was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Out of my window we could see financial skyscrapers and Mount Fuji in the distance on the horizon, while out of his we saw the rest of Tokyo. Being so high up also had its benefits of course. Especially when the hotel management leave binoculars in every room on special plates :).

Read on: And if you look very carefully, you see…

Let Me Show You the World Moscow in My Eyes.

Privyet droogs!

When asked where I live in the world, I always answer Moscow. However, I only live here something like four or five months a year (the rest of the time (I’m on the road on business). And in those four or five months a year I see little of the city besides the well-trodden (by me) routes between my flat, the office, and all three of MOW‘s international airports. Occasionally I’ll go downtown for this or that occasion like the dentist’s, our Christmas/New Year bash, or the clinic for my booster shot against yellow fever (needed for certain Latin American countries and Africa). But apart from that, I hardly ever see the place. Who’d have thought it? Me – practically a non-stop business traveler-cum-tourist – and I never get round to being a tourist in the city I live in?! Odd. So at the weekend I decided to change this state of affairs. Accompanied by two other Moscow-dwelling fellow ‘tourists’ who I’ve traveled a lot with far and wide, it was time to ‘do’ Moscow – at least, some of it – in a six-hour quick march

We started out at Sparrow Hills, and finished up at Molochnyy Pereulok, or Dairy Lane:

Read on: A very special weekend…