Tag Archives: Transparency

Detection is much more important than prevention –Bruce Schneier

Reviewing Bruce Schneier’s 2004 book Secrets and Lies, much of which was written in 2000, reminds us of something really basic. You can’t just fix security. Security is a process, most of which is about knowing what’s going on. Detection is more important than prevention. To which I add that for detection we need comparable Internet-wide metrics on security performance so every organization can see what’s going on and will have incentive to do something about it because its customers and competitors can see, too. Sound familiar? That’s what SpamRankings.net is about.

Joe Zack posted in Joezack.com on Bastille Day, 14 July 2013, Secrets and Lies: Nine Years Later,

2. “Detection is much more important than prevention”

Schneier keeps coming back to this point. He had this epiphany in 1999 that “it is fundamentally impossible to prevent attacks” and “preventative countermeasures fail all the time.” Security is “about risk management, that the process of security was paramount, that detection and response was the real way to improve security.” (emphasis mine)

I had formerly thought of security as largely being about prevention. A year ago, if you have asked me about “InfoSec” I might have prattled on about firewalls, injection attacks, encryption and good passwords. That’s still important, but now I know that there’s a lot more to it.

Zack says he thinks Schneier was like Nostradamus for having such insight before NSA PRISM and even before Facebook. Sure, Bruce has always been ahead of his time. But that basic insight was not unique to him, and Continue reading

John Quarterman on Mapping Spam and Politics (audio)

At a meeting on a completely different subject, I was interviewed about SpamRankings.net. Here's the audio, and here's the blurb they supplied:

John S. Quarterman, long time Internet denizen, wrote one of the seminal books about networking prior to the commercialization of the Internet. He co-founded the first Internet consulting firm in Texas (TIC) in 1986, and co-founded one of the first ISPs in Austin (Zilker Internet Park, since sold to Jump Point). He was a founder of TISPA, the Texas ISP Association. Quarterman was born and raised in Lowndes County, where he married his wife Gretchen. They live on the same land where he grew up, and participate in local community and government.

Quarterman took some time during Georgia River Network's Weekend for Rivers to speak with the Nonprofit Snapshot about spam-mapping and small town politics.

More about Elinor Ostrom's Nobel-prize-winning work on organizing the commons, and how that applies to SpamRankings.net.

The water organization has since been incorporated as the Georgia non-profit WWALS Watershed Coalition:

WWALS is an advocacy organization working for watershed conservation of the Willacoochee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Little River Systems watershed in south Georgia and north Florida through awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen advocacy.


Microsoft, world leader in Internet security: and spamming?

Microsoft, world leader in Internet security, will doubtless clean up its spamming act when it sees its AS 8075 is #1 for outbound spam in the U.S. for April 2012 in rankings from PSBL data, pushing the U.S. to #1 worldwide. Other rankings don’t show Microsoft high, but does MSFT really want to show up in any of these rankings?

Rank (Previous)CountryPopulationSpam
of top 10
1 (3) US 310,232,863 673,30618.2%
2 (2) IN 1,173,108,018 506,39713.7%
3 (1) CN 1,330,044,000 413,08911.2%
    Total   3,689,376100%

These rankings that show Microsoft high are derived by SpamRankings.net from PSBL blocklist data. The April 2012 SpamRankings.net from CBL blocklist data do not show Microsoft in the top 10. Apparently PSBL’s spam traps happened to be in the line of spam from Microsoft, while CBL’s were not.

And of course Microsoft probably doesn’t mean to be sending any of that spam. More likely botnets exploited a MSFT security vulnerability. Here’s hoping they clean it up soon!


How to leverage botnet takedowns

What is to be done when botnet takedowns don’t produce lasting benefits?

At the Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference in Arlington, VA in September, I gave a paper about Rustock Botnet and ASNs. Most of the paper is about effects of a specific takedown (March 2011) and a specific slowdown (December 2010) on specific botnets (Rustock, Lethic, Maazben, etc.) and specific ASNs (Korea Telecom’s AS 4766, India’s National Internet Backbone’s AS 9829, and many others).

The detailed drilldowns also motivate a higher level policy discussion.

Knock one down, two more pop up: Whack-a-mole is fun, but not a solution. Need many more takedowns, oor many more organizations playing. How do we get orgs to do that? …
There is extensive theoretical literature that indicates Continue reading

Transparency in Rome

Here’s my presentation, Transparency as Incentive for Internet Security: Organizational Layers for Reputation, from RIPE 61 in Rome. This presentation summarizes the two previous RIPE Labs papers about proposed new organizational layers and outbound spam ranking experiments.

RIPE-NCC is the oldest of the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), and RIPE is the deliberately unorganized association of interested parties that meets twice a year and holds discussions online in between. It’s a mix of operations, research, and socializing. Topics range from obscure details of deploying IPv6 to organizational proposals such as what I was talking about. 430 people attended the meeting in Rome, which was quite a few more than the dozen or two of the first RIPE meeting I went to many years ago.

Interesting questions were asked. I may blog some of them.


Checks on Checks, or Shipping and Shipping Software

Paul Graham points out that big company checks on purchasing usually have costs, such as purchasing checks increase the costs of purchased items because the vendors have to factor in their costs of passing the checks.
Such things happen constantly to the biggest organizations of all, governments. But checks instituted by governments can cause much worse problems than merely overpaying. Checks instituted by governments can cripple a country’s whole economy. Up till about 1400, China was richer and more technologically advanced than Europe. One reason Europe pulled ahead was that the Chinese government restricted long trading voyages. So it was left to the Europeans to explore and eventually to dominate the rest of the world, including China.

The Other Half of “Artists Ship”, by Paul Graham, November 2008

I would say western governments (especially the U.S.) subsidizing petroleum production and not renewable energy is one of the biggest source of current world economic, political, and military problems. Of course, lack of checks can also have adverse effects as we’ve just seen with the fancy derivatives the shadow banking system sold in a pyramid scheme throughout the world. It’s like there should be a balance on checks. Which I suppose is Graham’s point: without taking into account the costs of checks (and I would argue also the risks of not having checks), how can you strike such a balance?

He doesn’t neglect to apply his hypothesis to SOX: Continue reading