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Security analogies: the key to educating laymen

The following is a written version of a speech I gave at The Open Solutions Summit (AKA LinuxWorld NY) in New York City in February. It's long, but I think you will find it interesting. If you want to get to the website I announced, jump to the last section. I'm not a sports guy, by any means. I leave that up to my brother, who …
Scott Granneman, 31 May 2007
Vogon

The Fear biz is the computer security biz

Scott Granneman looks at the use of fear in computer security, from misleading media reports and gross exaggeration by industry leaders to the use of fear in order to sell new computers and software. What are you afraid of? What causes you real fear, the kind that causes your heart to beat faster involuntarily, your stomach to …
Scott Granneman, 11 Feb 2007
chart

Security, privacy and DRM: My wishes for 2007

Holiday time is a bit weird in my family. My brother Gus is the Equipment Manager for the New York Jets (yeah, I know ... tough game last weekend), so we can't celebrate Festivus ... uh, I mean Chrismakkuh until after the football season is over for his team. That means that a bad year for the Jets means Chrismakkuh in January, …
Scott Granneman, 13 Jan 2007
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A hard lesson in privacy

Sometimes I hear a story that is simply breathtaking in its stupidity and potential for disaster. For your delectation, horror, and amazement, here is one relayed to me by a good friend a few days ago. He's living in a European country that shall remain unnamed; in addition, the names and some details have been changed to …
Scott Granneman, 28 Nov 2006
For Sale sign detail

Surprises inside Microsoft Vista's EULA

It's Autumn in St. Louis, my favorite time of year in Missouri. Coats are getting progressively thicker as the temperature drops, trees are changing their leaves in a final show of brilliant color before their skeletons show, and darkness is starting to scare away the sun a bit earlier every day. Every Thursday night this …
Scott Granneman, 29 Oct 2006
globalisation

LinuxWorld, virtually speaking

Woody Allen once famously said, "80 per cent of success is showing up". And often, showing up means you're in the right place at the right time to take advantage of new opportunities. Nowadays, for instance, we take the talking heads that deliver the news to us on TV and radio for granted. But it wasn't always so. In fact, it's …
Scott Granneman, 19 Aug 2006
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CafePress for wall art?

ImageKind, a site that offers users the ability to upload art (which can be in the form of digital photography, digital/computer generated artwork and scanned traditional artwork) and then have it professionally printed/framed/mounted, has launched in beta. Real humans do the printing and do their utmost to ensure the prints …
Scott Granneman, 01 Aug 2006
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Moore's the modern Weegee

One of the most interesting characters to live and thrive in New York City between the Depression and the end of World War II - a time when interesting characters seemed to make up the lion's share of dwellers in that great American city - was Weegee. A photographer by trade, a dweller in the night by temperament, and a …
Scott Granneman, 26 Jul 2006
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WiMAX in the UK. Here's why it won't fly

WiMAX is another specification that has come out of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in the US, like Wi-Fi which comes under the 802.11 group. There are two variants of WiMAX, 802.16d which covers fixed installations and 802.16e covering mobile use. Fixed means point-to-point or point-to-multipoint …
Scott Granneman, 03 Jul 2006
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MySpace, a place without MyParents

Like, ohmigod! Have you heard? About MySpace? LOL MySpace is the second most popular web property in the world. Since appearing in January 2004, the site currently has 87m accounts, and it's adding around 270,000 new users a day. Of those 87m, about one-fourth are minors. In fact, the site grew 752 per cent in one year, one of …
Scott Granneman, 03 Jul 2006
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Why phishing catches punters

Occasionally a criminal is so, well, clever that you have to admire him even as you wish that he spends the rest of his life in jail. Take Arnold Rothstein, for instance. One of the kingpins of organised crime in New York City during Prohibition and before. The "Great Brain", as he was termed, was more than likely behind the …
Scott Granneman, 07 Jun 2006
cloud

Virtualization for security

Sometimes we don't really see what our eyes are viewing. That's true with your computer screen, and it's true in nature as well. Oh sure, we can say what we think we're seeing, but we're missing the big story such as the man behind the curtain, to recall a famous phrase from an even more beloved movie. For instance, it's a …
Scott Granneman, 13 Apr 2006
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As Emperor of Security, I hereby decree...

Ever since I was a little kid, I've been interested in Roman history. It still amazes me when I think about ancient Rome: the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, bringing countless advances to far-flung nations, yet still barbaric in astonishing ways, finally brought low due to a wide variety of causes and plunging the …
Scott Granneman, 28 Mar 2006
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The big DRM mistake

Digital Rights Managements hurts paying customers, destroys Fair Use rights, renders customers' investments worthless, and can always be defeated. Why are consumers and publishers being forced to use DRM? One of my favorite magazines is The New Yorker. I've been reading it for years, and it never fails to impress me with its …
Scott Granneman, 03 Mar 2006
cloud

Wi-Fi for dummies

The average user has no idea of the risks associated with public Wi-Fi hotspots. Here are some very simple tips to keep network access secure. My friend Philip is an expert at community activism and is a cracker-jack financial advisor as well. One thing he is not, however - and he would be the first to admit this - is a …
Scott Granneman, 10 Feb 2006
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Users inundated with pop-ups

There are many examples where users are now being inundated with pop-up messages asking them to respond to things they don't know about or don't understand, and it leads to weaker security overall. Context and knowledge is everything. With it, the strangest things can make sense; without it, the strangest things sound, well, …
Scott Granneman, 13 Dec 2005
channel

Sony fiasco: More questions than answers

The big story the last few weeks has been the Sony BMG rootkit and in fact, it's the kind of story for which columnists drool: a big company does something unbelievably dumb that violates basic security principles. Many questions have arisen in my mind over the past few weeks as I've watched this story unfold. I'd like to share …
Scott Granneman, 23 Nov 2005
graph up

Beware eBay bearing Skype

One of my stranger hobbies is collecting interesting and weird anecdotes I find in the news. I have a few areas that always fascinate me, such as finding people who miraculously escape certain death, or items about human memory and cognition, or eccentric individuals who embody some strange aspect of the human condition. Some …
Scott Granneman, 23 Sep 2005
channel

On blocking Chinese IP addresses

In the 1980s, I was unbeatable in Trivial Pursuit, and to this day, I still possess a love of trivia. Here's some neat facts about the Great Wall of China. Did you know... The Great Wall sprawls more than 1500 miles in length. You can see the Great Wall from low orbit, but not from the Moon (urban legend!). With the materials …
Scott Granneman, 31 Aug 2005
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Greasemonkey wobbles but it doesn't fall down

I have nothing but the greatest respect for Jon Udell. His "Strategic Developer" column is the first thing I read when my copy of InfoWorld magazine arrives in the mail, and his blog is one of the best if you're interested in the technical aspects of web development, standards, and practices. If blogging is enjoyable because it …
Scott Granneman, 09 Aug 2005
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Microsoft and Claria: together at last?

I don't get mad too easily, but there's one thing guaranteed to really get me steaming, and that's when someone is lying to me. Right now I'm feeling lied to, and while I could be wrong, I don't think I am. Worse, I don't think I'm the only one who's the victim here. I think virtually all of you are having your chains yanked as …
Scott Granneman, 15 Jul 2005
cloud

Your fingerprints are everywhere

How much do you trust your government? That's a question that all of us have to ask, perhaps the more often the better. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the United States and its third President, wrote to Abigail Adams sentences that may seem incredible to many people today: "The spirit of resistance to …
Scott Granneman, 16 Jun 2005
channel

Live CD paradise

Whether you need to sniff for wireless networks or carry Nessus, Nmap and the Metasploit Framework with you in your pocket, there's a security-based Live CD out there for you. My grandfather, Edgar Scott, was known as a fix-it man around Marshall, Missouri, the small Midwestern town in which I grew up. Folks brought cracked …
Scott Granneman, 07 May 2005
homeless man with sign

Privacy from the trenches

The recent string of high profile security breaches doesn't even hit the radar of the average user worried about the privacy of his personal information. Sometimes the timing of events is off... ironically, painfully off. One of the best poets to come out of World War I was Wilfred Owen, a young, sensitive Englishman who went …
Scott Granneman, 20 Apr 2005
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How shall I own your mobile phone today?

It pains me to give this woman any more publicity, but Paris Hilton and her cracked cell phone, the Sidekick II, really woke a lot of people up. For those of you who recently returned from a stay in a monastary somewhere high up in the Himalayas, last month Paris Hilton had her Sidekick II hacked and the contents spread all over …
Scott Granneman, 25 Mar 2005
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Google AutoLink: enemy of the people?

Success sometimes makes people do funny things, things that may seem bizarre, childish, or even foolhardy to others. To those undergoing the new brush with wild success, however, their actions make complete sense. For instance, several years ago a retired former construction worker named Phil Lee won the lottery in British …
Scott Granneman, 03 Mar 2005
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Beware the unexpected attack vector

A new round of attacks and phishing attempts use some unexpected attack vectors that we should have been paying attention to, but weren't, writes Scott Granneman of SecurityFocus. Back in 1882, Los Angeles was a rough, dry town of 12,000 people that had been an incorporated municipality for a little over 3 decades. 1882 also …
Scott Granneman, 10 Feb 2005
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Exploring the law of unintended consequences

The law of unintended consequences shows us how many innocent innovations like email, anti-virus and DRM can become something far worse than the inventors had ever imagined. Back in the 1970s, long before the revolution that would eventually topple him from power, the Shah of Iran was one of America's best friends (he was a …
Scott Granneman, 21 Jan 2005
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Trojan Horse Christmas

My wife Denise is really a brilliant woman, probably the smartest person I know. Earlier this year, we went to see the movie Troy, about, obviously, the Trojan War. At the end of the movie, just in line with the world famous story, the Trojans find an enormous wooden horse on the beach and, after some discussion, drag it into …
Scott Granneman, 31 Dec 2004
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Online extortion works

Online extortion is quietly affecting thousands of businesses, for a very simple reason: it works. The big question then becomes, how will you and your company decide to respond? Many of us have seen Kenneth Branagh's excellent 1989 motion picture adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V, and the general impression that most people …
Scott Granneman, 14 Dec 2004
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Stunned pundit agrees with Gates over passwords

Sometimes people make mistakes, and have to admit that they made a mistake. One of the most interesting mistakes I know of was made by Hartmann Schedel, a physician and cartographer who lived in Nuremberg (in what is now Germany) in the late 15th century. Schedel's most famous work was published in 1493: Liber Chronicarum, or …
Scott Granneman, 22 Nov 2004
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Phishing for dummies: hook, line and sinker

Recent "phishing" episodes, and two new browser vulnerabilities, show how the bad guys are tricking people into exposing their passwords and bank accounts. Couldn't happen to tech-savvy users, right? Unless you consider how entire nations have been fooled. The art of faking out opponents in a clever, elegant, beautiful way is …
Scott Granneman, 02 Nov 2004
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Fighting the army of byte-eating zombies

Being an intellectual dilettante, the fields of Systems Theory and Knowledge Management interest me greatly. One of the key principles of those fields is the DIKW Hierarchy first developed by Russell Ackoff, the idea that human minds (ideally) interact with the world and progress through what they find in a hierarchical process …
Scott Granneman, 08 Oct 2004
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Academia battles forces of IT anarchy

Academic institutions who have to add, manage, and secure thousands of new users within a period of just a few days face political and social issues on top of the immense technical ones, suggests Scott Granneman . I really enjoy traveling about the country speaking to various groups about security, technology, and other issues …
Scott Granneman, 16 Sep 2004
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Infected in 20 minutes

What normally happens within twenty minutes? That's how long your average unprotected PC running Windows XP, fresh out of the box, will last once it's connected to the Internet. It's interesting to ponder just how much time - in hours, in minutes, sometimes in mere seconds - it takes for a disaster to occur. The space shuttle …
Scott Granneman, 19 Aug 2004
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The battle for email privacy

Ah, humanity. We are a sneaky species, forever attempting to get a leg up on everyone else in as underhanded a manner as possible. If there's a way to listen in to conversations not meant for us, watch the actions of others furtively, or read someone else's secrets, we do it. In January, it was reported that a 24-year-old thief …
Scott Granneman, 30 Jul 2004
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Would you trade your password for chocolate?

OK, security pros, let's talk just amongst ourselves for just a minute. You might have seen that recent news item that reported that 70 per cent of people would willingly trade their computer password for a bar of chocolate. I don't know about you, but that left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. Even worse, 34 per cent would give …
Scott Granneman, 28 May 2004

Working up an appetite for destruction

If you're interested in the sweep of history, as I am, then you really should find the time to read through Jacques Barzun's magisterial From Dawn To Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life: 1500 to the Present. In particular, Barzun delivers a wealth of telling anecdotes that perfectly illustrate a point he's trying to …
Scott Granneman, 15 Apr 2004
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Security patches via modem? Forget it!

I recently had two eye-opening experiences that made me aware of something that, to my shame, I had forgotten. In the first case, I was helping a friend perform a clean install of Windows 2000 on a used computer that he had bought. We installed Windows 2000 just fine. We then installed all the other software that you have to …
Scott Granneman, 26 Mar 2004
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The perils of Googling

Google is in many ways most dangerous website on the Internet for thousands of individuals and organisations, writes SecurityFocus columnist Scott Granneman. Most computers users still have no idea that they may be revealing far more to the world than they would want. I'm not putting down Google. Far from it: it's a great …
Scott Granneman, 10 Mar 2004
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A visit from the FBI

Well, it finally happened. Right before Christmas, I had a little visit from the FBI, writes SecurityFocus columnist Scott Granneman. That's right: an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to see me. He had some things he wanted to talk about. He stayed a couple of hours, and then went on his way. Hopefully he got …
Scott Granneman, 28 Jan 2004
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Electronic Voting Debacle

Grave concerns over the security of electronic voting machines in the United States means the heart of American democracy is at risk, writes SecurityFocus columnist Scott Granneman. My grandmother, Ruth Scott, was passionately interested in politics her entire life. She never missed an election (an attitude she instilled in her …
Scott Granneman, 18 Nov 2003
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Joe Average User Is In Trouble

One of the many hats I wear here in St. Louis is that of college instructor, writes SecurityFocus columnist Scott Granneman. I teach courses in technology at Washington University, recently ranked the ninth best overall college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, …
Scott Granneman, 27 Oct 2003
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Linux vs. Windows Viruses

To mess up a Linux box, you need to work at it; to mess up your Windows box, you just need to work on it, writes SecurityFocus columnist Scott Granneman. We've all heard it many times when a new Microsoft virus comes out. In fact, I've heard it a couple of times this week already. Someone on a mailing list or discussion forum …
Scott Granneman, 06 Oct 2003
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RFID Chips Are Here

Bar codes are something most of us never think about. We go to the grocery store to buy dog food, the checkout person runs our selection over the scanner, there's an audible beep or boop, and then we're told how much money we owe. Bar codes in that sense are an invisible technology that we see all the time, but without thinking …
Scott Granneman, 27 Jun 2003