Cassandra Complex… Not for Much Longer.

Top o’ the day to ye!

It’s fair to say I’m a bit of an IT-paranoiac, and most of you will know by now I’m not one to hold my tongue about my fears of possible future Internet catastrophes, or the greed and degeneracy of cyber-wretches – plus the massive size of the threat they represent – and so on.

Because of this tendency for speaking openly and plainly I constantly get accused of purposefully frightening everyone (and in my own self-interest). But I don’t mind, even though it’s nonsense. So I’ll keep on calling a spade a spade – telling people what I think is right – regardless!

The evolution of cyber-Armageddon is moving in the predicted trajectory (proof it’s not just a matter of my frightening folk just for the sake of it); this is the bad news. The good news is that the big-wigs have at last begun to understand – to the extent that often in discussions on this topic are heard my horror stories of old practically word-for-word. Looks like the Cassandra metaphor I’ve been battling for more than a decade is losing its mojo – people are listening to the warnings, not dismissing and/or disbelieving them.

More: Five main problems for IT security …

Wham, Spam, Thank You Ma’am: The Quick Rise and Fall of Image Spam.

Here it is, the original Spam! Hmmm, yummy… but healthy? Is anything in a tin? Ok, will leave off the foodie lecturing just for today…

Spam

// It’ll be interesting to see if this post with the above pic in it will get through the anti-spam filters of those who subscribe to my mail-outs.

So here we are once again on a subject that it seems will never go away – spam, this time about a particular kind thereof – “image spam” – and the protective technologies that fight it.

I’ll start with a brief bit of historical background.

More: Detect in … 10 ms! …

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“Think Different” as Much as You Like, but You Can’t Actually Be Different.

Howdy all,

Steve Jobs

Phew. Finally got through them all – more than 600 pages of the Steve Jobs biography.

Despite the abundance of waffle in this tome (about 80% of it could easily have been ditched without really losing much) the book’s still an interesting read, demonstrating well why Apple is as it is. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the history of, and prospects for, the IT industry; particularly to those who want to discover Steve Jobs’ take on the IT confrontations of both the past and the present – Apple against Google, Microsoft, HTC, Samsung and others; and also those who follow or engage in the eternal holy-war forums that debate which products are better, cooler, the prettiest, etc.

My thoughts on Apple and Jobs are mixed. I’m rapturous about some things, highly critical about others.

First, let’s look back at this ad from 1984:

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Emulation: A Headache to Develop – But Oh-So Worth It.

What’s an ideal antivirus? Something that would feature the following:

  • 100% protection from malware;
  • 0% false positives;
  • 0% load on system resources;
  • No questions asked of the user; and
  • Lasts forever and is for free!

Like anything ideal though, this is of course a fantasy – quite unattainable in real life. But it’s nevertheless still worthwhile contemplating since it provides a fixed reference point for security developers: every company can then try to get as close to the ideal as it can within the limits of its financial and professional resources.

More: An important but unheard instrument to combat unknown threats …

Ferrari FF – Flippin’ Fast!

Hi all!

A little about my Ferrari FF test drive…

Now, I fully understand that for the vast majority in this world to drive a Ferrari or in fact any super car is a mere dream, and so my tales about Ferraris and Formula-One races may all seem a bit… politically incorrect – Clarkson style. But when out of the blue the Ferrari plant in Italy invites me over there to have a go in one of their mean-machines – well, I’m hardly gonna turn that down now, am I? And so why not let others know about it too?

Let’s face it, should ever the dream come true for you and you also one day get the chance to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari – it’s not as if you’d keep the experience to yourself, right? You’d tell others – wouldn’t you? :)

Ferrari

More: now with a clear conscience, I’ll continue…

Mobile Barcelona.

Greetings all!

// Note! Warning! Achtung Baby! To all Apple fans – read no further! But if you do, please forget about this post and don’t comment on it!

The MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona is one of the world’s key mobile events. It’s possible there to discuss the directions of development of mobile technologies, the pace of their expansion and improvement, and generally about industry goings-on.

Mobiel World Congress

What caught my eye this year most of all was what I saw to be the main change in the mobile landscape: the start of the end of the iPhone era. Indeed, it appears plain to me that the (mobile) party’s being rocked mostly by other brands now (a bit like Dubstep rocking formerly House clubs, but without being a flash in the pan:). I won’t go so far as naming those other brands here, but unless you’re a hermit – you’ll know which I’m talking about.

More: the iPhone era is now over …

Tearing Up the Rule Book.

“Tearing Up the Rule Book” is an informal motto we use in our high-level marketing. Looking back over our trip to the South Pole, sponsorship of the Ferrari Formula One Team, enrolling Japanese teen pop sensation AKB48, supporting the recent transantarctic expedition of Felicity Aston, and all sorts of other local events and promotions too, I think it’s fair to say that we pretty much totally tear up the rule book every time one is pushed our way.

And here’s a fresh example. But first a bit on the events leading up to it…

Last September, during one of my regular trips to Japan, my old acquaintance Okatani San invited all our party to a totally exotic restaurant.

The idea was to get all gluttonous on the tastiest of local cuisine – to the accompaniment of traditional Japanese Awa Odori dancing and singing, and then to join in the dancing and merriment ourselves.

Awa Odori

More: Tearing up the rule book at the Barcelona Carnival …

Halt! Who Goes There? Or Remedy #3.

Security people, sysadmins and, generally, all those who by virtue of their employment take loving care of corporate networks – all these people have plenty of headaches. Indeed, a veritable cornucopia of headaches. And, of course, the main source of trouble is… you guessed it, users. Tens, hundreds, even thousands of users (depending on your good fortune) who have problems 24/7. As for us, we try to help these ‘frontline soldiers’ get to grips with their headaches, using the full extent of our resources in our field of competence. Below, we discuss one very helpful remedy that fits this combat strategy to perfection.

There are, in fact, three separate remedies. But they all tackle one problem – keeping users under control. And there are helpful side effects – enforcing a centralized IT security policy, fool-proofing, and automating the ‘donkey work’. That’s right, I’m talking of three new features included in the new version of our corporate solution, Endpoint Security 8: application control, device control and web control. This post is about application control (or simply AC without the DC).

Most of the time it’s a struggle to keep computers clean. Users are given to downloading questionable “cool warez”, installing them, trying them out and forgetting all about them. As a result, in half a year the computer normally turns into an unmanageable software zoo, becoming unbelievably error-prone and slow. And, of course, the abovementioned “cool warez” can easily be virus-ridden, pirated, or at best counterproductive.

There are different ways of getting out of this predicament. Some companies wag their finger at users and strictly forbid them to install software on their computers (without actually enforcing a ban). Others simply make installing software impossible in one way or another. AC is, in fact, an elegant compromise between the two.

Read more: So how does it work and who’s the best?

Features You’d Normally Never Hear About – Part Four.

Hi all,

Once again, the subject is spam.

Depending on the “stars” and the time of year, the proportion of spam can range from anywhere between 70 and 90% of all email traffic.

Sounds like a lot, eh? But when you take all Internet traffic into consideration, it’s not actually that much – email traffic accounts for around just 1%. On the other hand, you can’t just forget about spam. Here is a bit more about spam’s role in the cybercrime ecosystem. Combating this particular evil is part of the massive war we are waging on cybercriminals. It’s no exaggeration to say that if we fail on this front, the rest of our efforts will amount to nothing.

In other words, we love anti-spam technologies and promote them as much as possible. There is, however, a subtle difference from anti-malware technologies. More precisely, there are different criteria for evaluating the quality of protection for anti-spam and anti-malware technologies. For malware it’s fairly easy: the higher the detection level, the better. For spam it’s more important to have no false positives. This is quite reasonable: it’s much better for the user to take a couple of seconds to delete a spam message that sneaks through the filter than miss important business correspondence. So, protection against spam is, in a way, a more complicated task, literally trying to kill two birds with one stone. In this difficult task, cloud technologies are a great help.

As I wrote earlier, we’ve been using cloud technologies for a while, and with considerable success. But one interesting detail has amazingly been overlooked, and unfairly so. In the cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), (video, details) there’s a rather impressive anti-spam cloud. It started from the Urgent Detection System (UDS). The link to similar anti-malware technology is no coincidence: both are based on similar principles.

This is how the traditional anti-spam technology works.

Let’s say an email arrives at a computer. It is immediately assailed by various anti-spam technologies, both local and cloud-based, which test the message and give verdicts. Based on these, the system decides whether this message lives or dies.

And this is what happens in the UDS.

The system takes a micro-signature from the email message and sends it to the cloud to check it against a dedicated spam database. Earlier we used 16-byte hashes; in 2011 we started the UDS2 (UDS 2nd generation) procedure involving 4-byte fuzzy hashes, which are more effective against obfuscated texts and are therefore better at filtering out spam. Importantly, these hashes do not create extra work for the analyst, since the system creates them automatically based on collected spam samples.

Read more: Serious ambitions for the elite 100/0 club …