Tie Down the Livestock, Twister’s a Comin’!

Posted June 5th, 2008 by

So we had a great bit of weather yesterday.  I had just gotten back from lunch with Chris from How Is That Assurance Evidence (pretty smart guy, similar content to myself, worth checking out some time) when  I got a tweet from the National Capitol Region Battlespace which is a civil-defense kinda organization but they have a good condensed tweet feed.  Anyway, the contents was this:  “Severe weather has entered NCR. Frequent lightning, tornado warnings for VA suburbs.”  Ooooh, tornado drill time, shut down the home servers, make sure Mrs Rybolov is wearing real shoes not sandals and get ready to bolt to the basement when you hear the train coming through your house.  Where’s Mogull to make a pithy saying about how twitter might have finally gotten a legitimate use.  =)

Meanwhile, less than 5 miles away at Dulles Airport, Jennifer Leggio was grounded and all but abandoned by the UAL crew who headed to the bunkers, so she had to wheel an elderly nun to safety (BTW, that’s fairly heroic/good-samaritan-like all things considered).  I think she finally got home today around late afternoon.

Parts of the DC area lost some power (Falls Church proper still doesn’t have power), including my server, which didn’t come back up when the power came back on because, well, I borked up LILO previously and didn’t know it.  After a trip over to see it this afternoon, everything is back to working.

Now from a blogging sense, this was the worst time for me because the day before I put up a slideshow about “What you can learn from the US Government” and now that my server’s back up, I’ve most likely dropped off everybody’s rss feeds.  The preso’s still there, go check it out.

After the storm blew through, NCR Battlespace sent the link to this beautifully evil picture of clouds in Alexandria:

Tornado Clouds over Alexandria

Impending Evil photo by Joseph J D’Angelo

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Posted in Odds-n-Sods | No Comments »

Government Akountability Office

Posted June 5th, 2008 by

 Ah yes, my favorite subject to bash: compliance.  Better comply or GAO will report you. =)


funny pictures

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Why You Should Care About Security and the Government

Posted June 3rd, 2008 by

Well, this is a little bit of a departure from my usual random digital scribblings that I call a blog:  I partnered up with Vlad the Impaler and we created a slideshow complete with notes about why you should care about security and the Government and what you can learn from watching the Government succeed or fail.

The .pdf of the presentation is here.  Feel free to share with your friends, coworkers, and co-conspirators.

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Posted in FISMA, Speaking | 4 Comments »

Transparency in Government: Just Give us the Data!

Posted June 2nd, 2008 by

Interesting blog post at Freedom to Tinker about government releasing the raw data.  It makes the security geek in me cringe because well, most of the data that the government has is PII, and I know that the typical government reaction is to say “not only no, but h*ll no!!”  I mean, after all, most of our goal in the Government is to keep the data from reaching the citizens and evil-doers–giving away data is a cultural clash.

Yes, transparent government is a pretty good goal.  I think the authors of Freedom to Tinker have forgotten that not all Government data is fit for public consumption.  The problem is one of sanitization:  how do you clean all of the PII out of data before you release it to the public?  Not only that, but because of the size of the data sets, most likely you need an automated method to sanitize it.  I think that because of the sanitization factor that the Government would not gain that much efficiency by outsourcing the data presentation to others.

As with all things in security, this is nothing new.  There’s a little-known project (First Rule of “Fight Club” being what it is…) known as Radiant Mercury that does exactly this with classified data.  You can check out the basic concept in quasi-official presentations here (.pdf caveat) and here.

If we were going to make all this data available, we would need an unclassified version of Radiant Mercury to filter out all the PII and “Sensitive but Unclassified” bits.

Now as far as letting second parties build interfaces into the raw data, I’m torn on it.  On one hand, private industry can provide access to data “Now at Web 2.0 Speeds!” but on the other hand, then the Government loses control over the presentation and, by extension, accountability for the content.

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Now ISC2 Blogs have an Opinion on FISMA

Posted June 2nd, 2008 by

The fun part of this time of the year:  the FISMA Report Armchair Quarterbacks.  Hey, even I fit in there somewhere because right now I’m nowhere near being in a decision-making role for the Government.

Well, today it’s the ISC2 blog talking about FISMA.

So why is it that nobody addresses the huge pink and chartreuse elephant in the room?  The problem is not the metrics, as flawed as they might be.  The problem is not identifying a security baseline, even though that makes sense to have.  The problem is not demonstrating Return on Security Investment (as flawed as  the concept is, and no, I don’t want to debate whether it’s a valid concept, even though we all know it’s not) even though good CISOs try to do that as internal marketing to their management.

This is the primary problem for the Government when it comes to security:  due to the scale of the Federal Government, we do not have enough skilled security people to go around.  Almost all of our governance models are designed around this flaw:

  • Catalog of controls to standardize
  • Checklists so that less-skilled assessors can
  • Varying degrees of automation
  • Prioritization of security practitioners’ time

This is why I’m adding “Fast Food Franchises” to the list of models that large-scale security can draw from.  =)  More to come on this topic once I sort out the ideas.

McDonald's Checklist

McDonald’s Checklist photo by myuibe

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Posted in FISMA, Rants | 6 Comments »

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