Tag Archives: market

At Last – Not All So Quiet on the Antitrust Front.

Last fall, in our domestic market we turned to the Federal Antimonopoly Service with a complaint against Microsoft regarding its anti-trust legislation violations.

Despite the long silence on the airwaves, the matter was in fact slowly but surely being addressed. And don’t pay any attention to inaccurate reports about not filing similar claims with the EU Commission: that was off the back of an interview I gave in Germany in which it looks like a fact or two went astray – perhaps lost in translation. We are definitely not planning on ‘temporarily backing off’ filing our competition complaint with the EU Commission.

And anyway, instead of reading reports it’s always better hearing it from the horse’s mouth, as they say… So here I am with real news and confirmed details and plans that I can share at the moment compromising neither ethical nor legal norms.

Ok. Let’s begin…

Microsoft took a two-pronged approach: (i) formal denials; (ii) specific practical steps to address the antitrust demands

First off, as was expected, Microsoft disagrees with our claims. ‘We did not create conditions…’, ‘we have not infringed…’, and even: ‘we do not dominate…’ But facts are stubborn things, and despite the formal denials, Microsoft has, in fact, taken a few crucial steps toward rectifying the situation. And it looks like our actions might have helped encourage Microsoft to do so. Of course, there’s still more that needs to be done, but this is at least a good start toward ensuring that consumers have the chance to choose the best cybersecurity solution for them specifically.

It appears Microsoft took a two-pronged approach: (i) formal denials (which is logical); and (ii) specific (although small) practical steps to meet both users and independent software developers half-way.

I’ll leave out the formal denials here, but in this post I want to tell you a bit about those ‘practical steps’ that were recently taken by Microsoft. Let’s have a look at three notable examples thereof:

Example No. 1: The Alarming Windows Defender PC Status Page.

One of the claims we made against Microsoft regarded the misleading Windows Defender PC status page, pictured below:

The good news is that Microsoft has changed the previously displayed status page in a recent update, addressing several of the confusing and misleading elements we described.

So, what was the original status page for and what were our objections?

Read on: the right direction…

Kentucky Fraud Kickin’.

The Internet and mobile devices and related gadgetry have brought so much incredibly useful stuff into our lives that sometimes it’s hard to imagine how on earth anyone managed without it before. You know, purchasing airline tickets and checking in, online shopping and banking, multi-device data sharing, keeping the kids occupied on the backseat of the car with a film on their tablets (in my youth you just sat there or played I Spy). But I digress, and so early on in this post…

Alas, along with all the good and helpful stuff to make life easier, the Internet’s brought us other stuff – bad stuff that’s harmful and dangerous. Malware, spam, hard-to-trace cybercrims, cyberweapons, etc., etc. There’s also Internet fraud, which is what I’ll be writing about in this post, or – more to the point – how to combat it.

But let’s start with the basics: who suffers from Internet fraud?

Consumers? Well, yes, but not much compared with businesses: the brunt of the cost of online fraud is taken by banks, retailers, and in fact any online operators.

The brunt of the cost of online fraud is taken by online operators

A few figures to illustrate the scope of Internet fraud:

  • In 2012 in the United States alone, direct losses from online fraud came to $ 3.5 billion;
  • Those losses were made up of about 24 million fraudulent online orders;
  • Almost 70 million orders were cancelled due to suspicion of foul play.

All rather alarming.

Online financial fraud

In the meantime, are online operators generally taking any measures against fraud?

Of course they are. Plenty!

Read on: budgets, people but not the right tools…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

All Mouth, No Trouser.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Thus spake Napoleon, the head-hog in Orwell’s dystopian classic.

The genius of this phrase lies in its universality – a small addition turns the truth inside out. Alas, this witty paradox [sic.] is met not only in farmer-revolutionary sagas, but also in such (seemingly very distant) themes as – and you won’t believe this – antivirus tests! Thus, “All published AV-test results are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Indeed, after crafty marketing folk have applied their magic and “processed” the results of third-party comparative AV tests, the final product – test results as published by certain AV companies – can hardly be described as equal in value: they get distorted so much that nothing of true value can be learned from them.

Let’s take an imaginary antivirus company – one that hardly distinguishes itself from its competitors with outstanding technological prowess or quality of protection, but which has ambitions of global proportions and a super-duper sales plan to fulfill them. So, what’s it gonna first do to get nearer its plan for global domination? Improve its antivirus engine, expand its antivirus database, and/or turbo charge its quality and speed of detection? No, no, no. That takes faaaar too much time. And costs faaaar too much money. Well, that is – when you’re in the Premiership of antivirus (getting up to the First Division ain’t that hard). But the nearer the top you get in the Champions League in terms of protection, the more dough is needed to secure every extra hundredth of a real percent of detection, and the more brains it requires.

It’s much cheaper and quicker to take another route – not the technological one, but a marketing one. Thus, insufficient technological mastery and quality of antivirus detection often gets compensated by a cunning informational strategy.

But how?

Indirectly; that’s how…

Now, what’s the best way to evaluate the quality of the protection technologies of an antivirus product? Of course it’s through independent, objective opinion by third parties. Analysts, clients and partners give good input, but their impartiality naturally can’t be guaranteed. Comparative tests conducted by independent, specialized testing labs are where the real deal’s at. However, testers are peculiar beasts: they concentrate purely on their narrow trade – that’ll be testing – which is good, as testing done well – i.e., properly and accurately – is no easy task. But their results can often come across as… slightly dull, and could do with a bit of jazzing up. Which is where testing marketing done by those who order the testing kicks in: cunning manipulation of objective test results – to make the dirty-faced appear as angels, and/or the top-notchers appear as also-rans. It all becomes reminiscent of the ancient Eastern parable about the blind men and the elephant. Only in this case the marketing folk – with perfect eyesight – “perceive” the results deliberately biasedly. The blind men couldn’t help their misperceptions.

blind people and elephant

More: Nine tricks to put the wool over your eyes…

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When Will Apple ‘Get’ Security Religion?

My recent mention of Apple in a speech at CeBIT Australia initiated the usual flurry of chatter and publications regarding the company’s approach to security. As Apple’s security seems to be a hot topic of late (since Flashfake), I think this is an opportune time to talk some sense about this issue. As you’ll know, today we see a widening rift between, on the one hand, Apple’s long-term alleged ‘Macs are malware-invincible’ campaign, and on the other – reality, i.e., that this campaign is… losing credibility, to put it mildly. So, will users have the nous to get to understand the real state of affairs, despite what Apple keeps telling them? What’s wrong with Apple’s security approach? Is there anything Apple can learn from Microsoft and other vendors in terms of security? …

More: When Will Apple ‘Get’ Security Religion?. . .

Business at the Edge of the World.

Australia. A huge territory, practically completely covered with desert, with thin inhabited zones along the coast. There are some populated areas inland, but not all that many.

The population of Australia is around 22 million (the 54th largest in the world); GDP is almost a trillion US$ (18th in the world – between Iran and Taiwan); and per capita income is US$40K (19th – between Austria and Kuwait) (source: CIA World Factbook).

Australia Pier

More: A fascinating, magical country …

In Updates We Trust.

Remember my recent post on Application Control?

Well, after its publication I was flooded with all sorts of e-mails with comments thereon. Of particular interest were several cynical messages claiming something like, “The application control idea is sooo simple, there’s no need for any highfalutin special “Application Control” feature. It can be dealt with on-the-fly as applications are installed and updated.”

Yeah, right. The devil’s always in the details, my cynical friends! Try it on the fly – and you’ll only fail. To get application control done properly – with by far the best results – you need three things besides that “it’s easy” attitude: lots of time, lots of resources, and lots of work going into implementation of a practical solution. Let me show you why they’re needed…

On the surface, it’s true, it could seem Application Control was a cakewalk to develop. We create a domain, populate it with users, establish a policy of limited access to programs, create an MD5 database of trusted/forbidden applications, and that appears to be it. But “appears” here is exactly the right word: the first time some software updates itself (and ooohhh how software today loves to update itself often – you noticed?) the sysadmin has to write the database all over again! And only when that’s completed will the updated programs work. Can you imagine the number of angry calls and e-mails in the meantime? The number of irate bosses? And so it would continue, with every update into the future…

To the rescue here comes running a mostly unnoticeable but mega-useful feature of our Application Control – the Trusted Updater. It not only (1) automatically updates installed programs while simultaneously bringing the database of trusted software up to date, it also (2) keeps track of inheritances of “powers of attorney” attracted to the updating process. The former is fairly straightforward and clear, I think. The second… let me explain it a bit.

Let’s take an example. While performing an update, some software launches, let’s say, a browser (for example in order to show the user’s agreement), and transfers to it its access rights. But what happens when the update is completed? Are you twigging what I’m getting at here?… Yes – in some products the browser keeps the inherited rights until it’s restarted! So until then it could perform an action that is actually forbidden according to the security policy – for example, to download something from the Internet, and, more importantly – to run it. What’s more, the browser gets the ability to call on other programs and give them the enhanced rights of the updater. Oht-Oh!

Turns out a single update could bring down the whole security system through incorrect access rights’ management during the update process. Scariest of all is that this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature!

Anyway, back to our Trusted Updater. What it does is take full control over the update: as soon as the process has finished, it restores the rights back to what they were before the update – for the whole chain of affected programs. Another handy trick is its knowing beforehand which updaters can be trusted – there’s a special category for them in our Whitelist database. And should a sysadmin want to, he or she can add other updaters to this category with minimal effort but with a good addition to the level of the network’s overall protection from all sorts of sly backdoors.

Application Control

More: The four scenarios of implementing for controlling software updates…

“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:

More:

Is Microsoft Planning to Take Over the Security Market with Its New Windows 8 Features? – Alexey Polyakov in the Spotlight

Windows 8 is coming! In line with its tendency to introduce high-profile security features in each new version of its operating system, Microsoft is unleashing some pretty interesting new protection technologies with its next OS release. In fact, some of them may dramatically change the cyber threat landscape and bring the security industry a set of very handy tools for protecting users against sophisticated threats like rootkits.

Alexey PolyakovToday my “in the Spotlight” guest is Alexey Polyakov, the Head of KL’s Global Emergency Response Team, our consulting service that assists enterprises in investigating security incidents, and auditing and improving corporate security policy.

Ever since graduating from Moscow State University with an M.Sc. in Physics, Alexey’s been working in the IT security industry – now for 15 years – with a résumé featuring positions at McAfee, IBM, Symantec and Microsoft.

Prior to joining us at KL Alexey worked as a senior security program manager at Microsoft, where he became the proud founder of the Microsoft Security Response Team and was one of the key members of the company’s security development. He’s authored and co-authored security technologies protected by 12 patents, and one such technology was Secure Boot – perhaps the most ambitious advance in Windows 8 in terms of security.

So, let’s see what our man can tell us about what to expect from Windows 8 from the security standpoint, and how this might change the security market.

Microsoft’s recent ‘Build’ conference made rather a splash in the industry by announcing many useful features in its upcoming Windows 8. While mostly addressing the new user interface, performance issues and multi-platform support, the company also presented a number of security innovations.

What do you think about Microsoft’s products’ security in general?

More > Some nice tools to make cyber criminals’ life harder…