Daily Tech Digest - May 21, 2022

How to make the consultant’s edge your own

What actually works, should the organization be led by a braver sort of leadership team, is a change in the culture of management at all levels. The change is that when something bad happens, everyone in the organization, from the board of directors on down, assumes the root cause is systemic, not a person who has screwed up. In the case of my client’s balance sheet fiasco, the root cause turned out to be everyone doing exactly what the situation they faced Right Now required. What had happened was that a badly delayed system implementation, coupled with the strategic decision to freeze the legacy system being replaced, led to a cascade of PTFs (Permanent Temporary Fixes to the uninitiated) to get through month-end closes. The PTFs, being temporary, weren’t tested as thoroughly as production code. But being permanent, they accumulated and sometimes conflicted with one another, requiring more PTFs each month to get everything to process. The result: Month ends did close, nobody had to tell the new system implementation’s executive sponsor about the PTFs and the risks they entailed, and nobody had to acknowledge that freezing the legacy system had turned out to be a bad call.

SBOM Everywhere: The OpenSSF Plan for SBOMs

The SBOM Everywhere working group will focus on ensuring that existing SBOM formats match documented use cases and developing high-quality open source tools to create SBOM documents. Although some of this tooling exists today, more tooling will need to be built. The working group has also been tasked with developing awareness and education campaigns to drive SBOM adoption across open source, government and commercial industry ecosystems. Notably, the U.S. federal government has taken a proactive stance on requiring the use of SBOMs for all software consumed and produced by government agencies. The Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity cites the increased frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks as a catalyst for the public and private sectors to join forces to better secure software supply chains. Among the mandates is the requirement to use SBOMs to enhance software supply chain security. For government agencies and the commercial software vendors who partner and sell to them, the SBOM-fueled future is already here.

Cybersecurity pros spend hours on issues that should have been prevented

“Security is everyone’s job now, and so disconnects between security and development often cause unnecessary delays and manual work,” said Invicti chief product officer Sonali Shah. “Organizations can ease stressful overwork and related problems for security and DevOps teams by ensuring that security is built into the software development lifecycle, or SDLC, and is not an afterthought,” Shah added. “Application security scanning should be automated both while the software is being developed and once it is in production. By using tools that offer short scan times, accurate findings prioritized by contextualized risk and integrations into development workflows, organizations can shift security left and right while efficiently delivering secure code.” When it comes to software development, innovation and security don’t need to compete, according to Shah. Rather, they’re inherently linked. “When you have a proper security strategy in place, DevOps teams are empowered to build security into the very architecture of application design,” Shah said.

SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?

For all the potential SmartNICs have to offer, there remains substantial barriers to overcome. The high price of SmartNICs relative to standard NICs being one of many. Networking vendors have been chasing this kind of I/O offload functionality for years, with things like TCP offload engines, Kerravala said. "That never really caught on and cost was the primary factor there." Another challenge for SmartNIC vendors is the operational complexity associated with managing a fleet of SmartNICs distributed across a datacenter or the edge. "There is a risk here of complexity getting to the point where none of this stuff is really usable," he said, comparing the SmartNIC market to the early days of virtualization. "People were starting to deploy virtual machines like crazy, but then they had so many virtual machines they couldn't manage them," he said. "It wasn't until VMware built vCenter, that companies had one unified control plane for all their virtual machines. We don't really have that on the SmartNIC side." That lack of centralized management could make widespread deployment in environments that don't have the resources commanded by the major hyperscalers a tough sell.

Fantastic Open Source Cybersecurity Tools and Where to Find Them

Organizations benefit greatly when threat intelligence is crowdsourced and shared across the community, said Sanjay Raja, VP of product at Gurucul. "This can provide immediate protection or detection capabilities," he said. “While reducing the dependency on vendors who often do not provide updates to systems, for weeks or even months.” For example, CISA has an Automated Indicator Sharing platform. Meanwhile in Canada, there's the Canadian Cyber Threat Exchange. "These platforms allow for the real-time exchange and consumption of automated, machine-readable feeds," explained Isabelle Hertanto, principal research director in the security and privacy practice at Info-Tech Research Group. This steady stream of indicators of compromise can help security teams respond to network security threats, she told Data Center Knowledge. In fact, the problem isn't the lack of open source threat intelligence data, but an overabundance, she said. To help data center security teams cope, commercial vendors are developing AI-powered solutions to aggregate and process all this information. "We see this capability built into next generation commercial firewalls and new SIEM and SOAR platforms," Hertanto said.

Living better with algorithm

Together with Shah and other collaborators, Cen has worked on a wide range of projects during her time at LIDS, many of which tie directly to her interest in the interactions between humans and computational systems. In one such project, Cen studies options for regulating social media. Her recent work provides a method for translating human-readable regulations into implementable audits. To get a sense of what this means, suppose that regulators require that any public health content — for example, on vaccines — not be vastly different for politically left- and right-leaning users. How should auditors check that a social media platform complies with this regulation? Can a platform be made to comply with the regulation without damaging its bottom line? And how does compliance affect the actual content that users do see? Designing an auditing procedure is difficult in large part because there are so many stakeholders when it comes to social media. Auditors have to inspect the algorithm without accessing sensitive user data. They also have to work around tricky trade secrets, which can prevent them from getting a close look at the very algorithm that they are auditing because these algorithms are legally protected.

CFO perspectives on leading agile change

In an agile organization, leadership-level priorities cascade down to inform every part of the business. For this reason, CFOs talked extensively about the importance of setting up a prioritization framework that is as objective as possible. Many participants mentioned that it can be challenging to work out priorities through the QBR process, because different teams lack an institutional mechanism through which to weigh different work segments against one another and prioritize between them. Most CFOs agreed that some degree of direction from the top is required in this area. One CFO said he thinks of his organization as a “prioritization jar”: leadership puts big stones in the jar first and then fills in the spaces with sand. These prioritization “stones” might be six key projects identified by management, or they might be 20 key initiatives chosen through a mixture of leadership direction and feedback from tribes. A second challenge emerged regarding shifting resources among teams or clusters responsible for individual initiatives. When asked what they would do if they had a magic wand, several CFOs said they need better ways to reallocate resources at short notice. 

Friend Or Foe: Delving Into Edge Computing & Cloud Coputing

One of the most significant features of edge computing is decentralization. Edge computing allows for using resources and communication technologies via a single computing infrastructure and the transmission channel. Edge computing is a technology that optimizes computational needs by utilizing the cloud at its edge. When it comes to gathering data or when someone does a particular action, real-time execution is possible wherever there is a need for that. The two most significant advantages of edge computing are increased performance and lower operational expenses. ... The first thing to realize is that cloud computing and edge computing are not rival technologies. They aren’t different solutions to the same problem; rather, they’re two distinct ways of addressing particular problems. Cloud computing is ideal for scalable applications that must be ramped up or down depending on demand. Extra resources can be requested by web servers, for example, to ensure smooth service without incurring any long-term hardware expenses during periods of heavy server usage. 

Why AI and autonomous response are crucial for cybersecurity

Remote work has become the norm, and outside the office walls, employees are letting down their personal security defenses. Cyber risks introduced by the supply chain via third parties are still a major vulnerability, so organizations need to think about not only their defenses but those of their suppliers to protect their priority assets and information from infiltration and exploitation. And that’s not all. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has provided more opportunities for attackers, and social engineering attacks have ramped up tenfold and become increasingly sophisticated and targeted. Both play into the fears and uncertainties of the general population. Many security industry experts have warned about future threat actors leveraging AI to launch cyber-attacks, using intelligence to optimize routes and hasten their attacks throughout an organization’s digital infrastructure. “In the modern security climate, organizations must accept that it is highly likely that attackers could breach their perimeter defenses,” says Steve Lorimer, group privacy and information security officer at Hexagon.

Service Meshes Are on the Rise – But Greater Understanding and Experience Are Required

We explored the factors influencing people’s choices by asking which features and capabilities drive their organization’s adoption of service mesh. Security is a top concern, with 79% putting their faith in techniques such as mTLS authentication of servers and clients during transactions to help reduce the risk of a successful attack. Observability came a close second behind security, at 78%. As cloud infrastructure has grown in importance and complexity, we’ve seen a growing interest in observability to understand the health of systems. Observability entails collecting logs, metrics, and traces for analysis. Traffic management came third (62%). This is a key consideration given the complexity of cloud native that a service mesh is expected to help mitigate. ... Potential issues here include latency, lack of bandwidth, security incidents, the heterogeneous composition of the cloud environment, and changes in architecture or topology. Respondents want a service mesh to overcome these networking and in-service communications challenges.

Quote for the day:

"To command is to serve : nothing more and nothing less." -- Andre Marlaux

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