Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sir Becta and Mr. Cipa - Comrades-in-Arms

The quote is attributed to George Bernard Shaw: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” (1)

Who knows? Perhaps it’s true. Nonetheless, there are many things that bind us together, despite Mr. Shaw’s rumination.

Here, for example, are two distinguished purveyors of Network Security, or if you will, Web Security. They are, Sir Becta and Mr. Cipa, similar in outlook, and contemporaneous in age. Both are focused on providing safety for school children and school administrators from the perils present on the Internet. Each is a creature of the legislative system of his respective country. In this case, Sir Becta, is British, borne of the House of Commons in 1998 (though recently destined to be "downsized" by budget cuts), while Mr. Cipa is the offspring of the U.S. Congress, Senate and White House, circa 2000, and still very much his lively self, the law of the land (USA, that is).

Whether you ascribe to Mr. Shaw’s opinion or not about our two countries being separated by the English language, web security on both sides of the pond, especially for minors, is a vital part of society’s response to the threats and dangers lurking on the web. Responsible teachers, schools, administrators, boards of education, and the public (citizens like you and me) all form part of civil society’s efforts to protect children from pornography, pedophiles, cyber-bullying and other threats that can invade and threaten kids via an internet connection, a chat room, email or other means.

This is in essence what one British-born, American-bred company, Smoothwall, does for a living. We are both British and American, like Sir Becta and Mr. Cipa. And, we are committed in both countries and everywhere else we operate to providing our web filtering and network security solutions for the safety of minors, and the safety of everyone else, for that matter. So, rather than seeing the two countries as divided by a common language, Smoothwall sees the world and the Internet protected by a common set of network security solutions. Doesn’t it make sense to minimize our differences, and maximize our commonalities, for the benefit of our kids, and the protection of society?

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(1) source:

©Smoothwall, Inc., All rights reserved, 2011.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Infosec this week. Best post about security?

Hey there readers. (Or at least I hope there's more than one of you). Infosec this week - if you've not been it's a lot of fun (except for the standing up for ages bit). Be good to see a few old friends there (hey Shep), and check out whats new and groovy in the world of "Info" "Security" (don't hold your breath).

So, anyway, what with the week it is - maybe I thought i'd stick up a post about security... these crazy ideas, eh? Bit of an old topic though - risk. Specifically people mis-assessing it - including some folks who should know better.

First up - there's been a lovely message doing the rounds on Facebook. This message exhorts users to sidle on up to the url bar, and bob an "s" on their "http". Harmless advice, nay even reasonable advice - but you're really not at a great deal of risk, given that login is always encrypted, so the worst you're really looking at is a session hijack on untrusted media. So folks will bandy about useful but largely irrelevant advice - you never see a "viral" encouraging good password sense, or not leaving yourself logged in on a public PC.. and this is probably because the HTTPS advice is easy to execute - hey look, I can see there's no "s", but I can put one there and feel safe. Nice. Security, it's like a switch, you can turn it on and go back to sleep. Hmm I didn't intend this post to be about Infosec, but i'm getting a faint echo of some of the marketing guff I heard there last year...

Secondly, and these boys and girls belong firmly in the "should know better" camp... I recently upgraded my phone (finally went smartphone, the Luddite is dead). The network, Everything Everywhere (always block.. guardian3 users know the score...) allow me to set a lovely long password. It has numbers and everything. Now, don't ask why, but I ended up calling these guys a few times over the last week.. and always giving the same two characters in my password. My secure-sense (yeah right) finally surfaced, and I questioned my "customer services advisor" and yeah, sorry coincidence hunters, they always ask the first two characters. There's probably a few statistics you can use to tilt the balance in your favour (not least overhearing any call!) - my first guess, going vowel-consonant only bought me 3%, I bet you, dear reader can whip that with a bit of grep and /usr/share/dict/words! On the other hand, these guys won't post my new trombone to anything but my home address. Which I told them. After giving my "2 character 10 character" password. I wonder if this new "home address only" policy is fixing the symptom, not the cause?

Lastly i'd like to put in a good word for CEOP, who got a bit of gyp in the press for not making their child abuse reporting form HTTPS.. what's more important, being able to report such sites, or mitigating the minuscule risk of an interested party snooping?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Voices from America

Greetings from the United States of America!

As a long-time software executive, working throughout the world to sell, market and establish high-tech solutions in various markets, it's a pleasure to be a part of the Smoothwall team. My role is to run the U.S. and other territories in the Americas, and to expand Smoothwall's success. This is an ongoing and expanding project, and as part of our outreach, we're contributing "posts" to this blog.

For the most part, you'll hear about ideas, activities and interesting elements that we comment on from the USA or other parts of our extended territory. This may be something specific to the industry, or more detailed, with regard to how a particular client deals with network security challenges, or applies creativity to network situations.

With luck, you'll read and enjoy these voices from America and they will be relevant in today's globalized world. You'll clearly be reading the U.S. English version (z's insteads of s's), with U.S.-centric vocabulary and phrases. The bottom line, all the same, will be added-value for your appreciation of all things in the network security industry, specifically with regard to how Smoothwall, Inc. (and the mother ship, Smoothwall, Ltd.) approach our charter of protecting networks, people and productivity.

As we say in the States: "British-born, American-bred, World-class Web Filtering and Security".

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© Smoothwall, Inc., 2011, All rights reserved.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poor customer service - in this day and age!

In this day and age of bloggs and web-savvy users, especially those buying technical services - who would expect a DNS company to have poor customer service? Customer service is pretty much the most important part of a company - it is so important and influential that it can even make up for or mask a lesser product. By customer service I don't just mean the support department, but also accounts, pre-sales, sales, website - anything which services a customer's needs.

I needed a new DNS provider as my old one no longer replied to support tickets and seemed to be disappearing. I was recommended Namesco by someone; "I use them and they are OK." They did not appear to support IPv6 so I contacted their support and they said that although it's not on the control panel, I can contact them and they will add the glue records for me. So I moved my 24 domains.

But then I found out that they could not support IPv6 DNS glue after making a ticket to ask for it to be added. So I put up with having only IPv4. I've now got to the point I no longer want to run my own DNS servers (SaaS FTW) so I've been looking around and seem to offer a good promise of customer service, full IPv6 support and free DNS serving. They also responded to my first ticket in minutes.

Back to the irritating Namesco control panel and I find that to transfer each domain I have to pay £10+VAT. I've never had to do this before when I transferred the last three times (I've had my own domains for 13 years). But not only do I have to pay £240+VAT, I have to repeat the process and go through a checkout TWENTY FOUR TIMES. Fail!

Don't they know a happy customer tells maybe three people. But an unhappy customer tells ten!

If the customer service staff at Smoothwall acted like this to our customers, I would have words with them, or their manager - and then make sure they got the training needed not to make the mistake again.

Now I am off to repeat an annoying loop 23 more times, get RSI and probably have VISA call me up and say there's suspicious activity on my card...