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Power Outages; Flame and Stuxnet; Recorded Future and More

CTOvision Monthly Summary: June 2012

CTOvisionCTOlabs and the tech consultancy behind them Crucial Point LLC are all run out of the Washington DC area. We seek global views of technology but this region is definitely our base and we have  a very high percentage of readers in the local ecosystem. For those of you here, you know the biggest tech story right now is not the latest software or hardware or tech concept or even our favorite Big Data topic but something that has impacted humanity from our very existence, the weather. The weather has had an absolutely huge impact on our tech these last few days. Some views on its impact were provided in Quick Lessons Learned From Massive Regional Power Outages.

Last month, we continued to bring you daily federal cybersecurity and information technology news, also posted on FedCyber. One of the biggest stories of this month was that Flame and Stuxnet were conclusively tied to the United States, the implications of which we explored in a series of more in-depth posts.  Sean Lawson wrote about how the initial panic around Stuxnet and potential infrastructure attacks against the United States were actually projections of our own covert actions on to other actors. Matt Devost explored possible private sector implication of Operation Olympic Games, the codename for the campaign of cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, explaining how private infrastructure owners now know they are potential targets of state sponsored attacks. Lastly, Adam Elkus described how the sophisticated malware flame demonstrates that state actors still have the lead in cyberspace, and that Flame is another in a series of instances highlighting the greater automation of espionage.

In June, CTOvision also had a very influential series of posts on cyberpunk and cybersecurity, analyzing how our cultural understanding of cyberspace helps and hinders computer network operations. The first, “How Cyberpunk Killed Cybersecurity“, challenged the notion of digital dualism, the belief in cyberspace as a separate plane outside of the physical world. Ignoring the overlaps and connections causes misunderstandings of both  threats and solutions. The follow up article, “How Cyberpunk Revived Cybersecurity“, explored the ways in which science fiction predicted and led information technology via augmented reality, overlaying cyberspace on top of physical space, which is a closer model of how we use information technology. As we get more interconnected and rely more on information infrastructure for our daily lives and security, reality begin to resemble many cyberpunk visions of the future and conflict. One example of this interplay between security online and offline was the capture of two Romanian hackers in a Secret Service honeypot relying on seduction rather than technical expertise.

Last month we also covered some events that help us understand cybersecurity. These included the release of the U.S. Government Accountability Office report from a study on the economic espionage aspects of the cyber threat. The report concisely reviewed major incidents as well as strategies to secure data and networks against these threats, and is available on our sister site CTOlabs. Another event we covered was a discussion for the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative,  ”Building a Secure Cyber Future: Attacks on Estonia, Five Years On“. At the event, Jason Healey noted how, though the Navy continues to study the Battle of Trafalgar from the Napoleonic Wars, little attention is still paid today to the historic state-sponsored cyber attacks on Estonia five years earlier and the lessons learned, such as the importance of having domestic and international partnerships in place before a major attack.

Another topic we focused on in June was analytics, information technology that helps analysts deal with an influx of complex data and turn it into intelligence. Recorded Future has created some disruptive technology that allows analysts to harness the predictive power of the web to turn open source intelligence on the web or classified and proprietary intelligence on a private cloud into timelines, trends, powerful visualizations, and a collection of predictions on the future.  Recorded Future is already in use at U.S. Southern Command to forecast unrest in Latin America, along with numerous other private and public sector clients in finance, intelligence, and corporate security. An additional use case is monitoring and forecasting cyber attacks, which also have trends, momentum, and key indicators that Recorded Future can follow. Another cybersecurity monitoring tool is Daedelus, a cyber attack alert system developed by the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology that creates incredible visualizations of information and networks.  We also looked into areas where analytics have the potential to improve and make a tremendous difference, such as with predictive firefighting.

One particularly fruitful yet difficult area of data analysis deals with Big Data, the data too large, complex, and rapidly changing for ordinary information infrastructure. The leading open source Big Data framework is Hadoop and the most popular distribution is Cloudera’s Distribution including Apache Hadoop.  Last month, Cloudera released an updated software stack, CDH4, with new additions as well as improved performance and usability. Cloudera also released a new version of Cloudera Manager, which helps manage enterprise deployments of Hadoop. While Hadoop is typically used on a cluster of computers, Datameer 2.0 allows you to bring the power of Hadoop to your desktop with an intuitive spreadsheet interface. And, for storing Big Data in the cloud, you can use Cleversafe to increase scalability, reliabity, and security while reducing costs up to 90%. Another great Big Data solution is Splunk, which stores,. indexes, and analyzes machine data. This year’s Splunk Live DC showcased three use cases for Splunk from three very different clients. The Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team uses Splunk to collect all event data on its networks and look for anomalies, the FDA uses Splunk to monitor Microsoft Exchange, and Defense Point Security uses Splunk to deliver Big Data and enterprise logging as a service.

As collecting Big Data allows organizations to find out much more about you than before,  it can create privacy and policy issues. We recently analyzed how data policies can affect you, often without your knowledge as reading all the privacy policies we encounter would take an average of 76 days a year. For the government, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 determines how Big Data will be used, which we also examined. This year, we hope to again highlight the best work that government is doing with Big Data, so we are accepting nominations for our 2012 Government Big Data Solutions Award.

Lastly, in June we also covered innovative and disruptive gadgets and mobile devices. We showed you some interesting phone concepts, including the revolutionary NTT DoCoMo with a semi-transparent organic electroluminescent display operable on both sides of the screen. Another interesting future mobile device we featured was Google’s Project Glass, which brings all of the capabilities of a smartphone and more into a pair of glasses. For current smartphones, we discussed the benefits of Google Experience devices, which frees Android users from relying on the original equipment manufacturer for updates and user interface skins. We also explored the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s contract with Invincea to create secure Android smartphones and tablets for the U.S. Army by providing virtualized browser, PDF reader, Office suite, .zip and .exe solutions on mobile devices. Mobile devices can now also be used to control drones, such at the newly released Parrot AR Drone 2.0, which has even been modified into an automated jogging companion, the joggobot.

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This post by was first published at CTOvision.com.

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder of Crucial Point and publisher of CTOvision.com

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