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Alan: Usually, at the end of the interview, I ask security experts what end users should do to be as secure as possible. I know that one recommendation I’m making is to abandon the traditional thinking of "don’t update your software right away, so that other people can be the beta testers and figure out the compatibility problems." It seems more prudent to always update to the latest version to keep yourself patched against the newest vulnerabilities and deal with the compatibility issues as they come. But it seems like in today’s world, the end-user is playing a less important role. The end-user with the latest software updates who is also savvy to social engineering cannot protect himself against hackers who steal credit card data from Sony. From a criminal organization, it’s far more effective to try to attack large databases rather than individual systems. What should be the call to action in 2011?
Charlie: Yes, as individuals we are pretty powerless. Even enterprises have to rely on the security of their devices and desktops, which they have little control over. Enterprises buy IDS, AV, etc., but still can get attacked by zero-days and it’s all over. So what we really need to do is force large vendors to do a better job writing secure software. Either lobby our government to hold them responsible when their bugs cause us financial loss or vote with our pocketbooks. Refuse to buy software that has problems, require the software to be audited and fuzzed by some independent organization. Besides that, all we can do is wait for the inevitable and then try to react as quickly as possible to to limit the damage.
Alan: As always, I really enjoyed talking with you and appreciate your insights.
Charlie: Thanks. I enjoyed it as always!
We thought Charlie's recent keynote at NATO's International Conference on Cyber Conflict was pretty interesting. Check out the full discussion below.