Sure, everyone loves a good robot story, but what are we really interested in when it comes to Watson, The Jeopardy Wild Card? David Ferrucci and his team’s brainchild has some impressive specs, in addition to its record-breaking performance:
- 10 racks of 90 Power750 servers
- 2,880 cores in Watson’s system
- 15 terabytes of RAM
- Equivalent of about 6,000 high-end home PCs
In addition to the enviable hardware setup, Watson’s software included the ability to understand language, making it possible for it to compete in the game show. Ferrucci’s team of two dozen wrote a mixture of algorithms in an attempt to emulate the human brain. To aid the supercomputer in recognizing letters of the alphabet, IBM input millions of images to allow Watson to determine recurring qualities in order to recognize the form of a letter it hadn’t yet seen.
Because Watson couldn’t be connected to the Internet during the game, Ferrucci’s team input information from The World Book Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.org, the Internet Movies Database, a large portion of the New York Times archives, and the Bible. The software is also capable of synthesizing data, or machine learning: With each question Watson gets correct, it is able to gather the commonalities amongst correct responses and improve its game.
No reason to panic, though. IBM’s Ferrucci assures the public that Watson is not the first step toward a realization of iRobot. If it is, however, we still have Asimov’s three laws to protect us:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
- Saturno wishes he had more time to read and learn everyday, but he makes do with the time he has. When he’s looking for something security-related, he checks out Security Blanket, which covers “automated, consistent Linux & Solaris lock down.” When it comes to cloud security, Chris Hoff’s Rational Survivability, Bruce Shneier’s security blog, and Craig Balding’s CloudSecurity.org make the cut.
- RamseyB enjoys Tony Bradley’s IT Knowledge Exchange hosted blog The Security Detail and Wired.com’s privacy, crime and security online blog, Threat Level.
- Mortimer1 recommends Trend Micro’s Cloud Security blog and seconds Saturno’s vote for CloudSecurity.org.
- Spadasoe enjoys checking out the Microsoft Security Response Center.
Don’t have time to read these blogs? Why not listen to one! Check out this vimeo video based on Craig Balding’s blog post “Are You Trying to Pin the Tail on the Cloud Donkey?”
Are we missing any of your favorite cloud security or just plain security blogs? We’d love to have them on our list, so leave them in the comments or send me an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com! For more tech blogs, check out the community’s member and editorial blogs.
William J. Lynn, III, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, helped kick off RSA 2011 with a keynote, as Security Bytes nicely covered. Listening to his talk, I was struck by how similar the fundamental issues the Department of Defense is grappling with are to the day-to-day problems the good folks in our IT community forums are tackling. In fact, the five pillars of Department of Defense’s Cyber Strategy 3.0 that Lynn laid out might make bullet points for your next pitch on why, yes, IT actually does matter to a company’s strategic success.
As Michael Mimoso reported earlier, cryptography and security pioneers Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman were honored at the 2011 RSA conference with the Lifetime Achievement Award. While it might be a bit of an obvious choice – RSA is named after them and all – the tribute video beforehand was excellent as both a primer on the cryptography and history that underlies modern security practices. It’s not embeddable, but you can pop over to RSA’s conference page to watch the presentation, which runs about 10 minutes and is completely worth it.
It was a great, sentimental crypto-geek moment … until it was shattered by a weird pop montage touting the conference’s take on Alice, Bob and Eve with a weird mashup of Madonna and Journey (I think). When will people learn to leave well enough alone? In the meantime, go watch the video.
It’s a common belief these days: Everything is heading to the cloud. With words such as “migration” dictating much of the conversation surrounding cloud, it’s safe to infer that many people view the cloud as an approaching technology rather than one that’s already here.
Peter Coffee, head of platform research for Salesforce.com, disagrees with this feet-dragging mentality. “The cloud is certainly available to everyone,” said Coffee. First of all, he said “migrate” is an inhibiting word when approaching the cloud. Coffee suggests looking for applications you wish you had but haven’t been able to create. Do you have a business process that’s organized primarily in spreadsheets and email? Consider building an application that can automate that process and deploy it in the cloud.
Yesterday I wrote about how Lenovo, talking up its new Full-Drive Encryption (FDE) tools, bragged that the technology was used to secure Coca-Cola’s famously guarded secret recipe. Well, that security measure (if accurate) was recently trumped by a 125-year-old vulnerability and an unlikely Black Hat: Ira Glass and NPR’s This American Life, which stumbled upon a 1979 stock photo which, the program’s reporters believe, was actually a photo of the original handwritten recipe.
It’s not the first time the alleged recipe has been released (Wikipedia currently lists a host of candidates), but the release highlights a theme I heard again and again this morning from the wonkier side of RSA: Technology is an incredibly small part of any true security solution. Adi Shamir, the “S” in RSA, made a point of saying that even the bleeding edge in security, and particularly cryptography, can do very little to nothing to stop WikiLeaks-style attacks or even Stuxnet attacks.
The end result is this: Enterprises (and governments) must constantly evaluate the total security scenario and always consider their assets compromised, just like the the NSA does, while evaluating ways to minimize harm.
Whether you’re in San Francisco at RSA 2011 or you’re in the middle of nowhere scouring the Web for updates and insights, we’ve got the A-list of Twitter stars that are on the ground at RSA right now. Click, follow, and keep up. If you’re there, why not send them a message – the worst that can happen is you get even more swag!
@atwalls: Gartner analyst who specializes in infosec practices, enterprise governance, security program management, and more.
@rcheyne: This self-described “hacker of the old-school variety” is also CEO of Safelight Security, a security training company.
@Simply_Security: David Lingenfelter, Information Security Officer at Fiberlink Communications, is sending out highlights and reactions to the goings on in San Fran.
@merrittmaxim: Works in Identity & Access Management at CA Technologies. He’s giving frequent updates on his reactions to what’s happening at RSA.
@jhaggett: This “lover of all things mobile” is at RSA. Whether he’s interacting with other members of the conference or observing a session, Jamie Haggett’s tweets are just as entertaining as they are informative.
@themeworks: Chief Technologist at Palm Tree Technology UK and Mastlabs USA, is tweeting out questions for his fellow RSA-goers and IT enthusiasts alike.
@Reflex_mike: UPDATE! How did we miss Mike Wronski? He’s VP of Product Management at Reflex Systems, and he’s been tweeting the heck out of RSA the past week.
And of course, for official updates on the conference, check out @RSAConference and hashtag #RSAC for more general, up-to-date information. Did we miss anyone? Send me an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com or leave it in the comments section.
Oracle Database Firewall made its public debut here at RSA yesterday, and for a cool $5,000 per processor the software parses incoming SQL statements, picks out risky ones and translates them into something a bit more mundane, adding a new layer of defense against SQL while minimizing the disruption to non-malicious users. It also means a minimal amount of reconfiguration on the part of the database admins: Just drop the firewall in, theoretically, and you’re (theoretically) protected, as one Oracle honcho explains:
“Evolving threats to databases require enterprises to look at new security solutions,” said Vipin Samar, vice president of Database Security, Oracle. “Oracle Database Firewall offers organizations a first line of defense that can stop internal and external attacks from reaching databases. Easy to deploy and manage, Oracle Database Firewall helps reduce the costs and complexity of securing data across the enterprise without requiring any changes to existing applications and databases.”
Read the full press release here.
Once your data is secured in the cloud, where do you secure your backups? Today’s guest post comes from David Strom, and he discusses his experience with one option for backing up the information in your cloud in another cloud.
One of the problems of using online services such as WordPress blogs, Facebook and Twitter is that you can’t easily save the information that you accumulate in the cloud. If you have a WordPress blog, you need to run a regular backup that saves your blog content into an XML file, for example. Now a service from Backupify.com can help. Using Amazon’s Web services and cloud-based storage, they provide backup agents to more than a dozen services, including Google’s Docs, Blogger and Gmail, Zoho, Delicious, Hotmail and Basecamp, YouTube, Tumblr, and general RSS feeds.
Setup for the most part is fairly simple: You have to provide your authentication information, which in some cases is stored in an encrypted place by Backupify. Then the service goes to work on a weekly or daily basis to do the backups, moving your data from its original repository (such as your Blogger blog) to your account on Backupify. You can have the service notify you via email when a successful backup is complete, along with other conditions too. Also, you can download what is stored in your archives using a Web browser. A sample backup history report is shown below.
I’m heading to RSA this afternoon, and the weather is already looking cloudy, even before the onslaught of announcements about cloud security this, that, and the other thing. Check out some of the headlines coming from San Francisco:
- Cloud security challenges dominate
- RSA Conference study to reveal cloud frustration
- RSA Conference Adds Focus on Cloud Computing Security
But securing cloud services is the issue that’s likely to be top of mind. Mogull said conference attendees will see a lot of hype from security vendors. Many vendors are merely using the cloud as a service model for their security technology. Others have simply virtualized their appliances to make the technology deployable in hosted virtual environments. Mogull said attendees should look for specifics from vendors.Security experts and vendors need to stop talking superficially about the cloud and start speaking more specifically about the aspects of the cloud they are referring to, said Joshua Corman, research director of enterprise security at The 451 Group, a New York-based analyst firm.Conference attendees should ask vendors whether their product is “in, for or from the cloud,” Corman said. “People are calling everything cloud, and when everything is cloud, nothing is,” Corman said.