The InfoSec Blog

Film or digital?

Posted by Anton Aylward

Do you recall Alan Cooper's book "The Inmates are running the Asylum"?

He makes the case that once you put a computer in something it stops
being that something and becomes a computer.

Camera + computer => computer

Well OK, we've had computers in cars for a long time and ...

The case he was making was that the computer takes over the UI. It does
eventually. My old 1970s era Canon A1 had a computer in it, a 'chip'
but it wasn't much more visible than the photocell+resistor of my older
Miranda Sensorex. By the time of my fathers Mintolta 7000 it had taken
over focus, exposure, film advance and more. Here we were with an
expensive SLR, one of the last film cameras before Sony bought them and
went digital, and it was a 'point and shoot' camera.

Many of the functions in a car were easy to take over with electronics
and subsequently computers, not least of all engine, braking and
traction issues. And it all gets easier and more effective with
electric cars! Only now, the 2014 models, are computers really
intruding into the cockpit. Dashboards with embedded tablet-like
displays worry e, they seem to be a distraction. Drivers don't need
that kind of continual update about the innards. The old Buick, now
deceased, had just tachograph, speed, fuel, batter oil pressure, and
engine temperature on the display. I'm not convinced tacho was needed
and having a digital speed readout is of questionable value. One safety
study indicated that a speed band indicated, like those led bar meters,

or possibly

are less distracting. Certainly if the on board computer knew the local
speed limit and scaled so that red was over the limit ...

Another time we can discuss how the smart phone has become ubiquitous
and is affecting culture (and economics) in ways that even Steve Jobs
and SF writers couldn't have predicted.

But right now I want to raise a point about film vs digital for cameras.

Its sad that for many photographers digital camera look like old
conventional cameras as, while it may have eased acceptance, it has also
been a concept blocker.

The reality is that the digital medium *IS* different. Most digital
photos are displayed digitally: on the web for example or using 'digital
photo frames'. I'm not saying this is an absolute, that print and
posters don't and won't exist, but so much is going digital. Money did
a long time ago, so are invoices and bills and receipts. NFC is even
eliminating 'plastic'. Newspapers still get printed but even that is
dying; their composition went digital a long time ago the shift to
digital publication wasn't so difficult. I read news on my phone and
so, I see, travelling on the TTC, do many other people. You can get
software that eliminates adverts and trawls for what interests you.
More and more specialized sites that focus on single matters and
springing up to make that easier.

A book I've borrowed recently phrases it well:

Your digital camera probably resembles a film camera in both
appearance and basic functionality. Like a film camera it has
a lens with aperture and shutter controls that can be used to
decide how much light penetrates into the body of the camera
for each shot.

But that's where the similarity between film and digital
cameras end. Despite the similarity in appearance of the
hardware device used to make the exposure, digital photography
is an entirely new medium compared to film photography.


People don't fully understand that this new digital medium
consists of the camera-computer partnership. They're still
hooked on the fact that their hand held computer with a lens
(aka a DSLR) looks like a good old fashioned film camera -
and if it looks like one, it must work like one.

src: "The Way of the Digital Photographer", Harold Davis:
ISBN 0-321-94307-4

Well, perhaps not. Lets leave things like the Hero aside for one moment
and just think about cell phones. While most have cameras in the 5-10
megapixel range, such doesn't even compete with the 12-16 megapixels of
even the sub-$100 point and shoot shirt pocket camera, there are a few
that are exceptional, in the 50 megapixel range. What they lack is
'good glass".

But the cell phone apps make up for that in processing. The software
available on cell phones for processing images and enhancing the
built-in camera is quite amazing.

Harold Davis' book deals with the post processing on the computer, your
laptop or desktop, something with more power and certainly more screen
real estate than your phone or tablet. The pint he makes repeatedly is
that digital is not film and should not be though of as form of file,
and comparing, for example, the colour spectrum of digital with the
colour spectrum of various films totally misses the point. You can do
and do easily with digital processing things that would be difficult to
impossible to do with film even with an advanced and highly equipped

Davis' book discusses Photoshop. I'm a Linux user; I use Darktable rather than Lightable

and gimp

rather than Photoshop


Davis has many other books that are worth investigating.

Books by Harold Davis

I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have
to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on
their television screens.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Canada’s counter terrorism strategy

Posted by Anton Aylward

Here in Kanukistaniland, Vic Toews (remember him? Check back to February of last year to see an example of him being idiotic in his role as Minister of Pubic Safety) has published a "2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada"

You can read it at the above URL.
I ask you, would you buy a used Huawei router from someone who looks like that?

The map/infographic has, you will note, a large number of grey areas. There is no legend referring to that colour. Are we to take it that grey means 'zero'? In which case having Indonesia grey is very interesting. Of course China is grey, the authorities will not permit any terrorist activity since that would mean people are acting out grievances against the state. As opposed to, say, foreign cartels that are employing under-age workers, which is against Chinese law.

Do note that in Canada terrorist activity or affiliation is an offence under the CRIMINAL code. Unlike many InfoSec-bad-things.


On ‘paranoia’ – revisiting “Paid to be paraoid”

Posted by Anton Aylward

My fellow CISSP and author Walter Jon  Williams observed that

Paranoia is not a part of any mindset. It is an illness.

Ah, Walter the literalist!

Yes I agree with what you say but look at it this way

"We're paid to be paranoid" doesn't mean we're ill.
It's a job.

Now if your job is an obsession, one you take home with you and it interferes with your family life, that you can't let go, then its an illness whatever it is.

"We're paid to be paranoid"

Its a job. You don't pay us Information Security Professionals to be pollyannas, to have a relaxed attitude.

Many of us come from a military or law enforcement background, some having served at the sharp edge of confrontations. The sharp edge isn't always the "mud and guns", sometimes its watching a screen or sifting
through intelligence reports or forensics or after action reports or ...

But if you don't have (a) a suspicious mind and (b) 20-20 peripheral vision about threats and contingencies and (c) a complete lack of silo-ization, then you can't be doing a good job in those roles.

Perhaps there are "pen testers" who know everything about breaking in to a network. Ranum and others have written on why such people are not really "security professionals": part of that is their silo mind-set.
We see similar rants about "jumped-up system administrators".

Many of us here are engineers or have an engineering background or education. Engineers, I've found, often operate on the expectation that things *will* go wrong, stuff *will* break, it *won't* perform to manufacturers specs. Not all of that is experience, a good part is education since they are tight how to build indefinitely reliable stuff
out of unreliable parts - given the budget and opportunity. And if Engineers are sceptical about anything, its Budget.

So when it comes down to a quick description of this "suspicious" mindset, one that is not confined to a narrow silo but covers all the domains of the CBK and possibly more (perhaps you too read Risks Digest and GrandPaRob's book reviews, one that would qualify you for various TLA organizations of which we choose to discuss only in unfavourable terms, _what_ word or phrase are you going to use?

I agree, Walt, the definition of 'PPD' in DSM-IV is unpleasant and not one that I would like to be applied to me:

Paranoid Personality Disorder
A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their
motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning by early adult-
hood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or
more) of the following:

  1. Suspects, *without sufficient basis*, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her.
  2. Is preoccupied with *unjustified doubts* about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.
  3. Is reluctant to confide in others because of *unwarranted* fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her.
  4. Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.
  5. *persistently bears grudges* (i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights).
  6.  Perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counter-attack.
  7. Has recurrent suspicions, *without justification*, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner

My Emphasis.
In our profession we have evidence from the past that hackers and extortionists do use information against companies, so our fears are not unwarranted.  We do have justifications for our suspicions, we only need to inspect our logs!  We do have reasons to suspect that our colleagues are, intentionally or inadvertently, leaking information that can be used by adversaries.

The Truth About Best Practices

Posted by Anton Aylward

An article on Linked entitled 'The Truth about Practices" started a discussion thread with some of my colleagues.

The most pertinent comment came from Alan Rocker:

I'm not sure whether to quote "Up the Organisation", ("If you must have a
policy manual, reprint the Ten Commandments"),  or "Catch-22" (about the
nice "tidy bomb pattern" that unfortunately failed to hit the target), in
support of the article.

Industry-wide metrics can nevertheless be useful, though it's fatal to
confuse a speedometer and a motor.

However not everyone in the group agreed with our skepricism and the observations of the autor of the article.
One asked

And Anton aren't the controls you advocate so passionately best practices? >

NOT. Make that *N*O*T*!*!*!  Even allowing for the lowercase!

"Best practices" is an advertising line of self-aggrandization invented by the Big Name Accounting Firms when operating in Consulting Mode.Information Security SWOT Analysis

Confusion over Physical Assets, Information Assets – Part Two

Posted by Anton Aylward

So I need to compile a list of ALL assets, information or otherwise,

That leads to tables and chairs and powerbars.

OK so you can't work without those, but that's not what I meant.

InfoAssetsPhysical assets are only relevant in so far as they part of information processing. You should not start from those, you should start from the information and look at how the business processes make use of it.  Don't confuse you DR/BC plan with your core ISMS statements.  ISO Standard 22301 addresses that.

This is, ultimately, about the business processes.

Confusion over Physical Assets, Information Assets in ISO-27000

Posted by Anton Aylward

I often explain that Information Security focuses on Information Assets.

Some day, on the corporate balance sheet, there will be an entry
which reads, "Information"; for in most cases the information is
more valuable  than the hardware which processes it.
   -- Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, USN Ret.

Some people see this as a binary absolute - they think that there's no need to asses the risks to the physical assets or that somehow this is automatically considered when assessing the risk to information.

The thing is there are differing types of information and differing types of containers for them.

Does ISO 27001 compliance need a data leakage prevention policy?

Posted by Anton Aylward

On one of the ISO-27000 lists I subscribe to I commented that one should have a policy to determine the need for and the criteria for choosing a Data Loss Prevention mechanism.

The DLP Logo

I get criticised occasionally for long and detailed posts that some readers complain treat them like beginners, but sadly if I don't I get comments such as this in reply

  Data Loss is something you prevent; you enforce controls to prevent data
  leakage, DLP can be a programme, but , I find very difficult to support
  with a policy.

Does one have visions of chasing escaping data over the net with a three-ring binder labelled "Policy"?

Let me try again.

Fly Away

Policy comes first.
Without policy giving direction, purpose and justification, supplying the basis for measurement, quality and applicability (never mind issues such as configuration) then you are working on an ad-hoc basis.

What is the goal behind calculating assets in ISO-27000?

Posted by Anton Aylward

My friend and colleague Gary Hinson said about asset valuation in ISO-27000

So, for instance, it’s hard to say exactly how much the HR database
is worth, but it’s a fair bet that it is less valuable to the
organization than the Sales and Marketing database containing
commercial details on customers and prospects. Therefore, it
probably makes commercial sense to put more effort and resources into
securing the S&M database against disclosure incidents, than for the
HR database.

While Gary is 'classically' right, there's a hidden gotcha in all that.

It is *YOU* that are assigning value, it is the value to YOU.
As Donn Parker points out, this may be quite different from the the value system of the attackers. You don't know their values, motivations, tools etc etc etc.

“Paid to be paranoid”

Posted by Anton Aylward

Read the first four paragraphs of this:

Forget the rest, forget that its about 'creative writing', just answer that question.

Bruce Schneier among other, myself included, have asked questions like that. Are you 'paranoid' enough to be in the security business?

Robert Slade

One of my colleagues, Rob Slade  yes *that* Rob Slade when he is teaching in Toronto, usually asks me to come along to talk for an hour to his students about "The CISSP Experience".
The first thing I ask the class is if there are any active or ex-military or law enforcement people present. To date there never have been, and to be honest it leaves me with a bit of a "Bah Humbug!" feeling when the class is really a company stuffing its IT department through the course and exam "for the numbers". Rob has some cynical comments to add but don't forget for him it's a days work and a days pay.

I'm also hit on for a variety of reasons by kids (even postgraduates) who "want to break into" -- yes that's the words they use, ironic isn't it? -- the security business. I suppose because the press makes it look more glamorous than just being a programmer or sysadmin. I keep telling them that its experience that counts, not certifications; too many, especially those from Asia, seem to think that a certification is badge that gets you work. Not so. Mind you, locally the recruiters cant seem to tell what makes InfoSec different from IT.  But that's a subject for another time.

And hence the opening lines to Holly's blog.
No, Holly, you're not alone; many true security professionals, be it Infosec, military or law enforcement, think like that.

  • What is the 'attack surface'?
  • What are the potential threats? How to rate them?
  • How can I position myself to minimise the effect of an attack?
  • What is the 'recovery mode' (aka: line of retreat)?

If you can't do this, then you shouldn't be in "Security".

Information Gathering and Risk Assessment

Posted by Anton Aylward

On the ISO2700 forum one user gave a long description of his information gathering process but expressed frustration over what to do with it all all, the assets, the threats and so forth, and trying to make it into a risk assessment.

It was easy for the more experienced of us to see what he was missing.

He was missing something very important -- a RISK MODEL
The model determines what you look for an how it is relevant.

The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails

Posted by Anton Aylward
I wouldn't have though, based on the title, that I'd be blogging about this, but then again one can get fed up with fed up with purely InfoSec blogs, ranting and raving about technology, techniques and ISO27000 and risk and all that.

But this does relate somewhat to security as awareness training, sort of ...

My problem with training per se is that it presumes the need for indoctrination on systems, processes and techniques. Moreover, training assumes that said systems, processes and techniques are the right way to do things. When a trainer refers to something as “best practices” you can with great certitude rest assured that’s not the case. Training focuses on best practices, while development focuses on next practices. Training is often a rote, one directional, one dimensional, one size fits all, authoritarian process that imposes static, outdated information on people. The majority of training takes place within a monologue (lecture/presentation) rather than a dialog. Perhaps worst of all, training usually occurs within a vacuum driven by past experience, not by future needs.

Another Java bug: Disable the java setting in your browser

Posted by Anton Aylward

Java 7 Update 10 and earlier contain an unspecified vulnerability
that can allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary
code on a vulnerable system.
By convincing a user to visit a specially crafted HTML document,
a remote attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable

Well, yes .... but.

Image representing XMind as depicted in CrunchBase

Are we fighting a loosing battle?
The New York Times is saying out loud what many of us (see and Rob Rosenberger have known in our hearts for a long time. AV products don't work.

How much Risk Assessment is needed?

Posted by Anton Aylward

In many of the InfoSec forums I subscribe to people regularly as  the "How long is a piece of string" question:

How extensive a risk assessment is required?

It's a perfectly valid question we all have faced, along with the "where do I begin" class of questions.

The ISO-27001 standard lays down some necessities, such as your asset register, but it doesn't tell you the detail necessary. You can choose to say "desktop PCs" as a class without addressing each one, or even addressing the different model. You can say "data centre" without having to enumerate every single component therein.

At first.

An “11th Domain” book.

Posted by Anton Aylward

Gary Hinson makes the point here that Rebecca Herrold makes elsewhere:   Rebecca Herold
Awareness training is important.

I go slightly further and think that a key part of a security practitioners professional knowledge should be about human psychology and sociology, how behaviour is influenced. I believe we need to know this from two aspects:

First, we need to understand how our principals are influenced by non-technical and non-business matters, the behavioural persuasive techniques used on them (and us) by vendor salesmen and the media. many workers complain that their managers, their executives seem t go off at a tangent, ignore "the facts". We speak of decisions drive by articles
in "glossy airline magazines" and by often distorted cultural myths.  "What Would the Captain Do?", or Hans Solo or Rambo might figure more than "What Would Warren Buffett Do" or "What Does Peter Drucker Say About A Situation Like This?". We can only be thankful that most of the time most managers and executive are more rational than this, but even so ...

Learning to Counter Threats – Skills or Ethics?

Posted by Anton Aylward

Fellow CISSP  Cragin Shelton made this very pertinent observation and gave me permission to quote him.

The long thread about the appropriateness of learning how to lie (con, `social engineer,' etc.) by practising lying (conning, `social engineering', etc.) is logically identical to innumerable arguments about whether "good guys" (e.g. cops and security folk) should teach, learn, and practice

  •  writing viruses,
  •  picking locks,
  •   penetrating firewall-protected networks,
  •  cracking safes,
  •  initiating and exploiting buffer overflows, or
  •  engaging in any other practice that is useful to and used by the bad guys.

We can't build defenses unless we fully understand the offenses. University professors teaching how to write viruses have had to explain this problem over and over.

Declaring that learning such techniques is a priori a breach of ethics is short-sighted. This discussion should not be about whether white hats should learn by doing. It should be about how to design and carry out responsible learning experiences and exercises. It should be about developing and promoting the culture of responsible, ethical practice. We need to know why, when, how, and who should learn these skills.

We must not pretend that preventing our white hatted, good guy, ethical, patriotic, well-intentioned protégés from learning these skills will somehow ensure that the unethical, immoral, low breed, teen-vandal, criminal, terrorist crowds will eschew such knowledge.

I have grave reservations about teaching such subjects.

Marketing Is Dead – Harvard Business Review

Posted by Anton Aylward

Of course you have to have a catchy title, but what this really says is

... in today's increasingly social media-infused environment,
traditional marketing and sales not only doesn't work so well, it
doesn't make sense. Think about it: an organization hires people —
employees, agencies, consultants, partners — who don't come from the
buyer's world and whose interests aren't necessarily aligned with his,
and expects them to persuade the buyer to spend his hard-earned money on
something. Huh? When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into
the world of social media, it simply doesn't work.

Yes but there are assumptions there.
Marketing WHAT to WHOM?

As opposed to just selling.

See also:

Which makes the point that book publishers have come adrift as far as
marketing in the Internet world goes.

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...
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How to build an asset inventory for 27001

Posted by Anton Aylward

How do you know WHAT assets are  to be included in the ISO-27K Asset Inventory?

SOMF Asset Patterns

This question and variants of the "What are assets [for ISO27K]?" comes up often and has seen much discussion on the various InfoSec forums I subscribe to.

Perhaps some ITIL influence is need.  Or perhaps not since that might be too reductionist.

The important thing to note here is that the POV of the accountants/book-keepers is not the same as the ISO27K one. To them, an asset is something that was purchased and either depreciates in value, according to the rules of the tax authority you operate under, or appreciates in value (perhaps) according to the market, such as land and buildings.

Here in Canada, computer hardware and software depreciates PDQ under this scheme, so that the essential software on which you company depends is deemed worthless by the accountants. Their view is that depreciable assets should be replaced when they reach the end of their accounting-life. Your departmental budget may say different.

Many of the ISO27K Assets are things the accountants don't see: data, processes, relationships, know-how, documentation.

A cautionary tale about the dangers of keeping everything in the Cloud

Posted by Anton Aylward

"Once the hacker gained access to Honan's iCloud account, he or she
able to reset his password, before sending the confirmation email
to the
trash. Since Honan's Gmail is linked to his .mac email address,
hacker was also able to reset his Gmail password by sending a
recovery email to his .mac address.

Minutes later, the hacker used iCloud to wipe Honan's iPhone, iPad
Macbook Air remotely. Since the hacker had access to his email
it was effortless to access Honan's other online accounts
such as Twitter."

Every new technology has people, the pioneers, who buy into the vendors hype ... and pay a price for that.

We should learn from them.

Computer Security

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Identity Management in the extreme!

Posted by Anton Aylward

Investigators say Antigua tried to pass himself off as an Air Force veteran, a member of NASA's Space Shuttle crew, even a doctor complete with hospital ID's and his own medical bag. He also had blue police-style flashing lights for his black Escalade

"We are going to go to whatever lengths that we need to travel to find out, is he really a threat or is he somebody living a very involved fantasy life," said Chief James Steffens.

Taking Cosplay too seriously?


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Steve Wozniak: Cloud Computing Will Cause ‘Horrible Problems In The

Posted by antonaylward

Perhaps The Woz isn't the influence he once was, and certainly not on Wall Street and the consumer market place.

Woz and I at dinner

The unbounded RAH-RAH-RAH for the "Cloud" is a lot like the DotComBoom in many ways. No doubt we will see a Crash rationalization.


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