ARE THEY KIDDING ME? DON'T THEY HAVE ANY REMOTELY INTELLIGENT ADVISORS IN THE WHITE HOUSE THESE DAYS? I THOUGHT PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS TECH SAVVY!
Okay, I got that off my chest. [see later post]
For those who came late to the party, here's how to think of the "Internet Kill Switch." Substitute "Internet" for any of these:
National highway system
Nationwide broadcast system
You can't have an "Internet Kill Switch" for the same reason you can't have a "Starbucks Kill Switch." The things being controlled are thoroughly distributed and they operate independently.
Yes, the President can always declare a "Starbucks Emergency" and demand shutdown of all Starbucks (and Caribou and Dunn Brothers and other caffiene chains, to be fair). But there's no real control over such things. Someone won't get the word, or they'll ignore it.
Tam Harbert has posted a fairly even-handed discussion of employee monitoring in Computerworld. This is a difficult topic to address, since it treads on the fine line between employee privacy and a company's obligation to ensure efficient use of their resources. When Secure Computing bought Webster Webtrack, a web filtering product, back in the 1990s, the developers said that they'd see drops of 70% in web traffic when users knew they were being monitored.
It's a well known fact - people are more likely to behave if they think they're being watched. And it's easy to waste time surfing the web.
Back when I was teaching full-time, I constructed a CPU simulation in Excel. Originally I used it to teach non-majors about CPU instruction cycles, an obscure topic included in an obsolete list of the course's required topics.
Now that Secure Computing Corporation is a memory, having been acquired by McAfee, I'm going to write up a few memories of my own experiences. At one point I posted much of this in the appropriate Wikipedia entry, but that's actually not kosher. Since much of it is based on personal recollection, these words fall in line with what they call "original research." So I'm posting it here.
I joined Secure Computing about a year after it came into existence. It was called "Secure Computing Technology Corporation" at the time. By the time I left, they'd gone through three more company presidents, 4 corporate logos, several mergers, and bounced the corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Silicon Valley.
When Joanne emailed me this video a few days ago, I responded with "Yes, yes, of course. Copiers are digital. They save stuff." But then I watched the video. THIS IS BAD:
This is why all hard drives should have built-in encryption.
Researchers at matousec.com have found a parameter substitution attack on antivirus software.
One effective antivirus strategy is to watch how a program uses the operating system. Malicious software may tell the system to do suspicious things, like loading an invalid kernel mode driver. The antivirus software checks the parameters passed to system functions to detect and block such things.
However, the antivirus software performs the checks on user mode data. Thus, a subverted user mode program can swap a "safe" parameter for a subverted one after the antivirus check takes place. This is especially true when you have multiple cores.
Jeremy Epstein reported this terrific report to Peter Neumann's Risks List: a school kid logged in as superintendent of schools. This was in Fairfax County, where I grew up. They use Blackboard, just like the college where I teach.
And yes, we're talking about a nine-year-old. It turned out to be a security policy problem. A teacher can add a student to a class, and a teacher has the power to change a student's password.
The kid found out his teacher's Blackboard password. They don't say how in the news, but it may have been written on a post-it, or some other piece of paper, or it may be the same as a password the kid watched the teacher use somewhere else, or it could just be an easy-to-guess choice.
Forrester Research and RSA have published an interesting report on corporate security priorities and compliance programs. The bottom line is no real surprise: companies spend more money on compliance with external requirements like PCI-DSS or HIPAA than they do on protecting their own secrets. These compliance requirements are tied to obvious business needs - you can't do much retail work unless you take credit cards - so it's hard to argue against such expenses. Forrester and RSA show statistics arguing that companies lose more money through lost company secrets. Yet a lot of companies focus their security efforts exclusively on compliance and really don't make a special effort to protect company-specific assets.
Kapersky Labs posted a reasonable summary of the report.
Slashdot's title writers dramatically misread the report, summarizing it under the title "Compliance is Wasted Money." I tend to think of Slashdot as being edgy in a digital native sort of way, so I'm surprised they spun it that way.
I think the report reflects two things. First, companies don't want to spend money to assess their losses from leaked company data, unless they're already inclined to be a secrecy-oriented company. If a company is more inclined towards openness and information sharing, then they don't want to collect such information: bad news makes management look bad, and there's no countervailing data to show a measurable benefit to being a more open company.
I recently migrated from my venerable Palm Treo 700 to a Blackberry Storm II. In between I had a brief fling with a Droid, but jettisoned it after about a day. There were two problems. First, it's too much like having a laptop instead of a phone, IMHO. Second, I don't like the security model.
When we talk about the "Droid security model" we're really talking about the Android operating system and not about any particular phone. The exact phone I had isn't as important as the mechanisms that are undoubtedly common to all Droids.
The basic problem is that it's too vulnerable to malware like viruses, worms, or Trojan horses. This is a feature of its openness, but not a feature I personally crave on my cell phone. My phone serves a little as an electronic wallet, and I don't want malware in there, even if it limits my choice of apps.