What are the differences between a chilly Australian winter and a hot Scottish whisky summer?
There are plenty, but the main ones are: First, here in bonnie Scotland – at least on the eastern side where we were last week – there are no palm trees to be seen out the window. Second, the sun moves in the opposite direction, and does so very slowly: it gets dark around 10pm and gets light around 4-5am. Sure, it’s at a latitude of 56 degrees north after all!
Anyway, here we were in sunny St Andrews in Scotland, United Kingdom!
In the southern hemisphere – of course including Australia, where I was last week – June 1 is the first day of winter. Down under it’s hardly gonna be all snow drifts, frozen-over lakes and -40 degrees temperatures or anything, but it can still get relatively cold at night. The nightly average minimum temperature at this time of year in northwestern Australia is 15 degrees centigrade, but that’s only the average; in some places there can be night frosts. In Oz!! All the same, by day, hardly wintry in the town of Broome in Kimberley:
I love to play pranks, act daft, or just play like a kid – especially when the following are present: a large friendly group of like-minded revelers and a real special location.
Just recently both those ingredients were indeed present – and in full effect. It was the evening after one of our partner conferences – for the first time in Venice.
Beach-resort holidays (‘vegging out’) are not my thing. At all.
Sand, sun-loungers, parasols, ‘refreshing’ drinks and sunblock – I can survive that torture for two or three hours tops. Then I have to start strolling along the beach, sometimes a few kilometers at a time, oftentimes with camera. It beats lounging about any day. You walk along, get a tan, take a dip once in a while, take pictures along the way… Once, in the Dominicanan Republic, D.Z. and I strolled like that for some four hours. Afterwards we looked like models for a scary sunblock ad.
So yeah: beaches, sand, beach beds and basking in the sun are not for me. But!…
But #1. Some of our trips can be really hectic, involving flying across several time zones. As a result we get to the hotel not just tired, but totally wasted. If there’s nothing I have to do the next day and there’s a nice little beach close by, I can easily spend the day sleeping there. I’m pretty good at it. I lie down in the shade around midday and wake up at sunset, all rested, fresh, and ready to go.
But #2. We often organize our business events in beach hotels (which means that for me a beach has come to represent work rather than play:). Anyway, in our 18 years of active corporate life we’ve been pretty much everywhere. From Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. It works out real nice: we work in the daytime and can have a good time in the evening – resort-style. And often we stay for a couple more days after the business is done :).
I seem to be taking a long time getting to the subject of the waterpark at Atlantis, The Palm hotel resort in Dubai…
I first used the term ‘Internet-INTERPOL’ somewhere around the start of the 2000s. The first time I got round to writing it down was in 2003. This year – 2015 – some 12 years later, finally, what I’ve been talking about, pushing for, advocating, promoting all these years is here:
An INTERPOL division dedicated exclusively to combatting the dark side of the Internet!
Yep, just the other week in sunny Singapore INTERPOL officially opened its new cyber-division – IGCI – whose mission is to clear cyberspace of all things criminal and similarly bogus. It will act as the coordinating center for all international cyber-related activities of police forces of all its member states (nearly 200 countries!). In short: international hackerism and other net-diseases – watch out, CYBERPOL is here for good to make your lives miserable and increasingly risky. Besides investigations it will also be training specialists, promoting the cybercrime fight, and doing a whole lot of other helpful stuff in the name of ww-security for the www.
This opening really is no less than monumentally significant. Up until now cyber-villains have been running amok in part due to a lack of unity among national law enforcement bodies – aka different jurisdictions not talking too much with one another. Like the classic FBI vs. CIA vs. regular cops thing that’s been shown in Hollywood movies since the year dot. But this is real folks! Example:
Late last year one cop was asking us for the contact details of certain other cops from a different country! Asking us! Of course – it should be the other way round: all cops knowing each other and their passing on our contact details when they need some cyber-expertise! Indeed, the two systems’ coexistence (the cybercrims’ one without borders, and state cyber-police’s within the jurisdictions of national borders, or, at best, within the European border) has always been a problem. And it’s only gotten worse over the past 15 years or so – with increasingly brazen cyber-swine doing their stuff practically with impunity. Some of them have been caught and punished, but in the main, those were just the tip of the iceberg.
What makes last week’s event in Singapore even more special for us is that the IGCI was opened with our active participation plus support of various kinds – organizational, consultative, financial, and even personnel. For example, one of our top experts, V.K., is now our assigned ‘man in Singapore’, having been living in the city state and working with INTERPOL for several months already, and set to continue for much longer. He’s helping his INTERPOL colleagues develop and deepen their cyber-knowledge and practical cyber-skills, and even takes part in ongoing investigations. And he’s as happy as a sand boy.
I’ve been in the USA countless times.
Usually it’s just for short stays with a few different places to visit, but there’s normally plenty of interesting tales to tell afterwards. Not this time! This time it was business, business, and again business. In this post, alas, there’ll be nothing too riveting for you, dear reader – just a few curious items…
…The first being… SNOW!
Now, you might think there’s no way a Russian could ever be interested in snow in other countries. Coals to Newcastle, right? But you’d be wrong. For this is the first time in my life I’ve ever seen SO MUCH SNOW – right here, in the U. S. of A.! A knee-jerk, subconscious urge was willing me to be offended: ‘How’s it possible? Give us our patented, trademarked snow back!!’ One word: odd. No, one more word: unexpected.
A far cry from the Everglades a day earlier :)
Which airline to choose to get from Madrid to Guatemala was a no-brainer: practically the only airline to fly direct is Iberia. It’s like, why would we fly with a connection – heaven forbid a North American one? :)
So off we popped, direct to Central America…
The first bit of land on the other side of the Atlantic was Haitian (I think), and then came Jamaica. Over the mainland we flew over Honduras, and next up was our country of destination – Guatemala.
Incidentally, Honduras – why’s it called Honduras? You can find out here. It appears there are two alternative versions. The first starts:
In Spanish, the word “honduras” means “deep waters” or “depths”. It is a peculiar name for a country, but there is also a peculiar story behind how our country got this name.
You have reached your destination
Not everyone (who lives outside Central America maybe) is able to point out Guatemala on a world map. Not everyone knows it’s in Central America even – many think it’s in South America. But no, Guatemala is the quintessential Central American country – the most central Central American country, in fact.
It sits neatly between Honduras, Salvador, Belize and Mexico. Firther to the south there’s also Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and then Columbia and Ecuador.
I flew over this nest of cuckoos curiosity a while back. Unfortunately that was at nighttime so I saw nothing at all of it. This time things were different:
Volcanism on the horizon. My cup of tea
A Fuji competitor!
Turns out there are 33 volcanoes here, three of which, I’m told ‘represent a threat’. That makes sense: this part of the world’s seen plenty of volcanic activity in its time, some of it very sad. For example, in the sixteenth century Agua destroyed the first capital of the country; and in 1965 Pacaya blew its top violently and has been erupting constantly ever since.
And right now Fuego‘s causing all sorts of problems for the locals. And on the first night after we arrived there was even an earthquake! I missed it as I was in a jetlag-compensating deep sleep. Not sure if that was a good or bad thing.
We went for a walk up Pacaya while in Guatemala; not to the top – it’s smoking like a bar steward right now up there – but around the old crater near it. Impressive. So impressive in fact that it warrants a post of its own. I wasn’t expecting that there’d be a lot to report back on from here – I was proved wrong!
All the photos are here.
Back soon folks!…
Some ten-plus years ago, our then still quite small company decided to push the boundaries – literally: we went transnational. Before long we found we had expert-analyst KLers working in all corners of the globe, all of them communicating with one another by email, messengers, telephone and other indirect means. Nothing wrong with that really, but still, it’ll never beat face-to-face interaction. So we decided to have a yearly jamboree where we’d all get together and top up on the much needed proper face time. That was when our annual conference for IT security experts was born: the Security Analyst Summit (SAS).
February 15-18, 2015 is fast approaching…
Over those four days we’ll be having our annual (seventh) conference on information security, whose main topic will be modern-day cyberattacks and protecting against them besides a whole load of other assorted cyberthreat themes. The winter summit in warmer climes, this year in Cancun, Mexico: the Security Analyst Summit 2015 (SAS).
So, just remember, the main security industry hashtag of mid-Feb this year is this one: #TheSAS2015
(No security experts were harmed during the shooting of this video)
SAS is an exclusive, invite-only gig, with only the cream of the world’s crop of top IT security movers and shakers taking part. It’s not massive – it’s more intimate, which means it’s more meaningful and more gets done – and twice as engaging and interesting for all participants. But don’t feel left-out by this guest-list-only cliquishness. Opaque – us? :). Just about all what’s discussed we’ll be swiftly publishing as tweets and blogposts (see the hashtag above and the blog links below).
Meantime, if you want more detail about what goes on at SAS and some SAS history, have a read of this.
This year’s bash promises lots of very interesting content, including a world premiere or two plus other important announcements, as per tradition. The main themes are targeted attacks and cyber-militarization, and how to combat both. Also on the agenda are: mobile malware, vulnerabilities management, cyberattack analysis methods, intra-security-expert-industry cooperation, and more besides.
There’ll be both presentations of the ‘for all’ format, and also highly specific, specialized ones for the pros (like for example reverse engineers). And there’ll be a special bit this year on protecting critical infrastructure – which promises to be very useful due to both the timeliness and the number of top-notch experts who are going to be taking part.
Have a look for yourself: the program’s ready and online already.