Thoughts on Infosec, 2014 – first day

I usually post a show report about Infosec somewhere, and for various painful reasons, this year it has to go here. And this year I’m at a bit of a loss.

Normally there’s a theme to the show; the latest buzzword and several companies doing the same thing. I wasn’t able to spend as long as normal there today, thanks to the RMT, but I think it’s probably “Cloud Security” this year. As with “cloud” anything, this is a pretty nebulous term.

Needless to say, the first day of the show lacked the buzz, with a smaller than usual number of visitors, haggared by disrupted journeys, mooched around the booths.

I was a bit surprised to see very little on the “heartbleed bug”, although there were a couple of instances. Either the marketing people didn’t understand it, or had uncharacteristically been put in their places.

One stand that’s always interesting is Bit9, a company after my own heart with alternatives to simple virus scanning. They went on a spending spree earlier in the year and have purchased and integrated Carbon Black. This is technology to allow their customers to monitor exactly what’s happening on all their (Windows) computers; which applications launch with others, what initiates a network connection and so on. It’s all very impressive; a GUI allows you to drill down and see exactly what’s happening in excruciating details. What worries me is the volume of data it’s likely to generate if its being used for IDS. There will be so much it’ll be hard to see the wood for the trees. When I questioned this I was told that software would analyse the “big data”, which is a good theory. It’s one to watch.

Plenty of stands were offering the usual firewalls. Or is that integrated solutions to unified threat management. Nothing has jumped out yet.

At the end of the day there was a very sensible keynote address by Google’s Dr Peter Dickman that was definitely worth a listen. All solid stuff, but from Google’s perspective as an operator of some serious data centre hardware. He pointed out that Google’s own company is run on its cloud services, so they’re going to take care of everyone’s data as they would their own. Apparently they also have an alligator on guard duty at one of their facilities.

I was a bit saddened to see a notice saying that next year’s show will now be in early June and Olympia. I’ve got fond memories of Earls Court going back more than thirty years to the Personal Computer World show. And Earls Court just has better media facilities!


Infosec 2014 set to be disrupted by tube strike

It could hardly come at a worse time for Infosec, the UK’s best Information Security show due to take place at Earls Court next week. The RMT is planning a tube strike through the middle of it. Infosec 2014 runs from 29th April to 1st May; the strike runs from the evening before and services aren’t expected to resume until the 1st May. As many exhibitors shut up early on that day and head for home, and the real networking happens in the evenings at the hostelries around Earl’s Court, this is something of a disaster.

On a personal note, the largest outlet for my scribblings on the show in recent years shut up shop at the end of 2013; I’ll be putting the trade stuff in the Extreme Computing newsletter and probably blogging a lot more of it here. If I can get there. I shall try my best, and blog live as the show continues.

Infosec 2013 – First Impressions

I’m here at Infosec 2013 at Earls Court, looking for the latest trends in Information Security. It feels a bit more sober this year, but this could be to do with the number of people turning up on the Tuesday. Hot topics? Well user privilege management seems to be headlining, at least a bit. That’s what the marketing people are aiming their guns at anyway, but it’s too early to tell what the real story will be.

I had a look at the “new” Firebox firewalls. Their big thing is application management, which is, apparently, a big selling point. Rather than just blocking out particular web sites based on URL, they are using signatures on web pages to do the blocking. This approach allows companies, for example, to allow people to access profiles on Facebook but not play games. It’s a good idea, but I don’t see how it can get around the YouTube problem – a mixture of business and entertainment videos (often embedded in supplier and customer web sites) with no obvious way to tell between them. I’ll be taking a closer look.

New at the show is South Korean cyber security company AhnLab. Given my recent comments on the North Korean cyber-warfare claims, they’ll be interesting to talk to.

What’s going on in the cyber-security business-wise? Overseas outsourcing is a recurring theme. Scary!


Infosec Europe 2011 – worrying trend

Every Infosec (the Information Security show in London) seems to have have a theme. It’s not planned, it just happens. Last year it was encrypted USB sticks; in 2009 it was firewalls. 2011 was the year of standards.

As usual there were plenty of security related companies touting for business. Most of them claimed to do everything from penetration testing to anti-virus. But the trend seemed to be related to security standards instead of the usual technological silver bullets. Some of the companies were touting their own standards, others offering courses so you could get a piece of paper to comply with a standard, and yet others provided people (with aforementioned paper) to tick boxes for you to prove that you met the standard.

This is bad news. Security has nothing to do with standards; proving security has nothing to do with ticking boxes. Security is moving towards an industry reminiscent of Total Quality Assurance in the1990’s.

One thing I heard a lot was “There is a shortage of 20,000 people in IT security” and the response appears to be to dumb-down enough such that you can put someone on a training course to qualify them as a box-ticker. The people hiring “professionals” such as this won’t care – they’ll have a set of ticked boxes and a certificate that proves that any security breach was “not their fault” as they met the relevant standard.

Let’s hope the industry returns to actual security in 2012 – I’ll might even find merit in the technological fixes.