Speaking primarily about works of fiction, James Branch Cabell said
the goal for an author is to write perfectly about beautiful happenings.
That is a lofty goal for any writer, and perhaps over the top for
nonfiction. Yet, why not strive to write perfectly? We may fail but are
bound to have created something that is more enjoyable to read and
conveys the knowledge we wish to impart. Here are the books on writing that I have found the most useful and inspiring.
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker, is my favorite book on style and writing.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser, is a must-read. I have found it guided me in developing a voice for my research reports, blogs, and books. It was first published in 1976 and has been updated many times since.
Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. You may remember Kidder for The Soul of a New Machine, one of the first narrative nonfiction books on the tech industry.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg, is a series of philosophical essays on writing that may provide some motivation.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott, is another collection of essays to help you tackle and complete a project.
Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, by Philip Gerard, has chapters on conducting interviews, choosing a topic, and research which are a big help.
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, by science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin, is beautifully written prose about writing beautifully.
If you find yourself fascinated by the writing life, as I am, you will enjoy Zinsser’s memoir, Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher. C.S. Forester, one of my favorite fiction authors, also wrote a memoir: Long Before Forty.
What is notable about Forester is that his writing appears effortless.
The reader can be completely absorbed in the story without being
distracted by the writing at all. In the same vein as Forester, Nevil Shute’s memoir, Slide Rule, describes how he transitioned from pioneering aeronautical engineer to bestselling author of such works as A Town Like Alice and On The Beach. I
encourage you to read these works and also look up your favorite
authors on YouTube. Many of them have lectured on their writing
practices. Malcolm Gladwell teaches a master class at masterclass.com
which is revealing and practical. Oh, and one more. Jon Winokur’s The Portable Curmudgeon, a collection of over a thousand quips and quotes from notable curmudgeons, from Groucho Marks to Dorothy Parker.
This post first appeared on Peerlyst, which is sadly going offline August 27, unless a white knight rides in.
David Shipley, founder and CEO of Beauceron Security, was responsible for security awareness training at a Canadian university. After looking at existing solutions he decided that something better was needed. (Before you ask, a Beauceron is a sheepdog from Beauce, France.)
Beauceron Security has developed security awareness training tools that include an element of gamification. Each end user is given a score based on factors that include testing their knowledge, reporting phishing emails, and taking corrective action if they miss something.
Driving positive behavior change is always a challenge in cybersecurity. Beuceron drives change by providing the right information at the right time for employees to care about their role in cybersecurity. Keep in mind that cybersecurity awareness is different for employees and executives so having different approaches for different levels of target value is important.
Their set of cloud based tools is also highly customizable so that new phishing methods or things that are unique to a customer organization can easily be built in to the training progam.
There is no question that collaboration tools, particularity email, are the major vector for attacks. Especially in this time of lock-down and work from home, when we all rely on email, Teams, and other collaboration environments, attackers are taking advantage of our constant use of these tools.
BitDam addresses the security problems with these vectors with an inspection engine that is blindingly fast. Because it is cloud-native, an enterprise or even a small business can set up BitDam protection in minutes.
To back up their claims of better catch rates, Liron describes how they use harvested malware and send it to instrumented mailboxes, allowing users to see which malware their existing protections missed. Well worth investigating the constantly updated dashboard here.
Network discovery has always been a utility required for any defensive assessment. First discover your assets. Only then can you implement a patching strategy to reduce your attack surface. Only then can you figure out what to defend and how.
But the surge of new devices attached the network—be it the conference phones, security cameras, and building controls in an office, or the machines on a plant floor or in an electrical utility’s grid—has exacerbated the problem with discovery. Many devices are uncatalogued in discovery tools meant to differentiate between servers, desktops, and wifi devices.
HD Moore, founder of Critical Research Corporation, and known as the father of the Metasploit Framework, took a moment to describe his new project. With Rumble Network Discovery he is creating a tool that will solve the asset discovery problem. His team is systematically cataloging all devices. Each new user of Rumble may introduce them to new devices, but over time their ever growing database of device signatures creates a clearer and cleaner mapping of an organization’s assets.
Active scanning and fingerprinting are the core of Rumble. HD describes how this overcomes issues with legacy tools that may miss things thanks to micro segmentation, which cloaks whole segments from a passive network tap, and device hardening, which is designed to foil scanning.
Only with as complete a picture as possible of the devices on your network, including your cloud deployments, will you be able to grasp the task at hand: protecting everything.
Some form of this post is going to make it into a book I am writing titled Curmudgeon: How to Succeed as an Industry Analyst. I had a good start on the book before talking with Gene Kim shortly after he sold Tripwire to Belkin in December 2014.
Gene encouraged me to to put Curmudgeon aside and instead write UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence. That was a great call, thanks Gene. UP and to the RIGHT
was my most highly praised book ever and it led to consulting
engagements with large vendors that wanted more control over their Magic
I feel a bit self conscience writing about
the business of being an independent industry analyst. But you are
supposed to “write what you know,” so here goes.
challenge is defining “success.” I have been striving about 20 years to
be that industry analyst that writes from the porch of his log cabin
overlooking a mountain valley, and travels to conferences around the
world to deliver keynotes. I am not there yet, but I am doing what I
love, so there is that.
Any independent writer/consultant/speaker
faces the challenges of surviving during hard times. Looking back, the
luckiest thing that ever happened to me was getting hired by Gartner
right at the beginning of the tech crash in 2000. My resume lists only
two jobs I have ever held more that 15 months: the four years I spent at
Gartner and the 16 years I have been an independent analyst. The tech
depression of 2000 lasted just about four years.
In the Fall of
2008 I found myself re-launching IT-Harvest. My friend Leo Cole at
Websense asked me to speak at two CISO dinners in New York City. We made
reservations at two of the best restaurants in the city and had
confirmations from 25 CISOs and Directors from large banks for each
dinner. Gene Hodges would preside and I would offer my views on the IT
security industry. The first dinners were at the Tao Restaurant on
Wednesday, September 16, and the next night at the 21 Club. If you have
seen The Big Short, you may recall the scenes in NYC that week
as Lehman Brothers closed its doors on Monday. The Global Financial
Crisis had started just as I was getting IT-Harvest off the ground. As
you can imagine, the dinners were not well attended.
2009 was my
most difficult year. Spending by vendors was curtailed immediately as
they conserved cash. Marketing dollars are the first to be clawed back
during a financial downturn.
Now we face a combined crisis of
global pandemic and the resultant forcasted economic downturn. Surviving
the pandemic is the first concern of everyone. Vendors, like all
businesses, have closed their offices and required employees to work
from home. RSA Conference 2020 was the last major security event to be
held before most of the country went on lock-down. IBM, Verizon, and
ATT, pulled out in the week before, and the City of San Francisco
declared an emergency during the conference. Tens of thousands of
attendees went home and into isolation.
Sequoia issued a warning memo
to their portfolio companies on March 5, evoking a feeling of “here we
go again,” in those that recall Sequoia’s famous memo of 2008 titled:
“R.I.P. Good Times.”
I was busy at RSAC launching Security Yearbook 2020
and getting ready for speaking gigs the rest of the “season” (the
industry analyst business typically dries up in the summer months when
events are hard to organize.) By March 4, every single event for the
foreseeable future had been canceled or postponed to the Fall.
I could not be happier with the broad acclaim Security Yearbook 2020
has received. The launch was by far my most successful. But you should
know that, unless you are Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, books do
not make very much for non-fiction authors. It is speaking engagements
and consulting gigs that come from book publishing that can keep you
Since speaking and consulting gigs are likely to be gone
for months, what can I do? Well, one thing I can do is take advantage of
the lull to write more! You may have noticed my increased frequency of
posting here, and on Peerlyst, The Analyst Syndicate, and Forbes.
to Forbes is a great outlet. My columns get tremendous visibility:
81,000 views of The Demise of Symantec, so far. I began exploring my
past posts to Forbes. They go all the way back to 2010, when Andy
Greenberg invited me to contribute my blog posts.
That gave me the
idea to pull together a collection of my writing and turn it into a
book. That is my project this week and next. I am going to publish Stiennon On Security: Collected Essays
in record time. At the very least, readers will not have to slog
through the clutter of ads and popups that Forbes forces on them.
I did a first pass edit of 120 columns I noticed that many of them were
inspired by video interviews that I did with founders and executives.
With my current interest in the history of our industry (see Security Yearbook 2020) I began to think of those 150 interviews as a historical record. I have interviews with Udi Mokady, CEO of CyberArk, Amit Yoran, then CEO of Netwitness, Bill Conner, then CEO of Entrust, and Ruvi Kitov and Ruven Harrison, founders of Tufin. You can still see them all at www.vimeo.com/itharvest.
led to the idea: why not re-launch the video interviews? The last time I
did them was 2016. We reserved the biggest hotel suite in San Francisco
and brought in a four person camera crew to conduct 30 interviews in
three days. I have been credited with starting a trend because we were
the first at RSAC to do this. Now every security media company offers
these. But the actual credit belongs to Phil Alape at Demos-on-Demand.
(Phil is an experienced veteran of video production. Demos-on-Demand
has created a great sales lead tool.) Wouldn’t interviews over Zoom
serve the same purpose? In addition to executives of established firms I
can interview the founders of a new generation of cybersecurity
startups. That will give me plenty of material to write about.
Will this make it into Curmudgeon? That depends on the success of the new video series!
You could argue that IT-Harvest has been in the book publishing business since 2012 when it published UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence. But that, and our other books, were published via Create Space (now transitioned to Kindle Direct Publishing). It’s a different matter entirely to contract with a printer to produce books in volume. But the cost is dramatically lower. About one third the cost of Print on Demand.
For Security Yearbook 2020 we had visibility into potential sales. Secure Cloud Transformation has already sold 30,000+ copies. So, why not cut out the Print on Demand middleman and sell direct?
process is similar: write a good book, format the interior, create a
great cover, and submit files. But this time the files went to a
printer, Sheridan Books,
in Chelsea, Michigan. You may be surprised to learn that the Ann Arbor,
Michigan, area is the epicenter of book printers in North America.
But, instead of a digital press, the files are converted to sets of pages that are etched onto aluminum plates on a giant laser printer pictures below. The flexible plates are wrapped around cylinders that print the pages at high speed. This is called off-set printing. The paper is sliced and cut and assembled into signatures that are sewn down the middle. Those are collated and bound together and then the hard covers are added.
Finally, the books were packed in boxes and shipped to Fulex, the fulfillment warehouse in Warren, Michigan.
Now for the next steps. Create an online shop to sell the books directly. That is hosted here at it-harvest.com.
Security Yearbook 2020 is already available for pre-order on Amazon.