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Humans Matter: Issue four – Are you a maestro?


08 March 2017

Bryan K. Fite

Blogs by author: Bryan K. Fite, Account CISO, BT.


Recent technology conferences have shown that orchestration of robotic workforces has some way to go to replace the human touch. Bryan K. Fite explores why.

No one has ‘the answer’.

As I write this blog, I’m sitting in a small sushi joint at the top of a hill in Auckland, reflecting on the last three weeks and how they’ve reaffirmed my belief in why humans matter.

I survived RSA 2017. My takeaway this year was that there’s no shortage of awareness of the threat or the technology to address that threat. However, what is in short supply appears to be real answers.

I’m not suggesting that there weren’t vendors claiming to have ‘the’ answer (not to be confused with Die Antwoord, one of my favourite bands). It’s more that I didn’t buy into their various approaches. The claim that simply purchasing a service or a single bit of kit will be enough to protect your organisation would be laughable if it weren’t so prevalent and dangerous.

Orchestrating a headache for organisations.

As predicted, automation (or its new code name, ‘orchestration’) was widely discussed, and touted at the conference as a force multiplier.

I agree that orchestration shows plenty of promise. But the only organisations capturing that lightning in a bottle will be those that are mature enough, or are digital disruptors. For most, it’s likely a much better use of limited resources to focus on the basics instead of creating a robot workforce.

In addition, I’m concerned about what happens when software-defined ‘everything’, cloud and automation meets bad input — or even the ubiquitous logic errors so often found in overly complex systems. It seems there’s still an important place for humans in these processes.

A resourceful response to some ‘wicked problems’.

After RSA, I headed down to New Zealand for 31C0n — a new conference being held in beautiful Auckland. I was humbled to be in the company of speakers, researchers, fellow practitioners and friends.

The University of Auckland Computer Scientist, Peter Gutmann, presented the keynote speech, and suggested the existence of a handful of ‘wicked problems’ that are unsolvable — or at least so impractical as to make them almost impossible to solve. This would prove to be a topic of lively debate at various times over the course of the conference.

And, I must say, the theme resonated with me. Why spend your limited resources on big bangs that yield such limited value when focusing on the basics has so much more payback?

Insight aplenty at c31c0n.

31C0n had so many good sessions; Sam Pickles, the ERNW crew (Dr Oliver Matula and Christoph Klaassen), Matthew Daley, Michael Ossmann, Craig Smith, Philippe Langlois, Jacob Torrey and Ravishankar Bogoankar.

Unfortunately, I missed Rodrigo Branco’s session because of some press interviews. However, I heard it was great (of course), and I plan to watch the recording.

An honourable mention goes out to Edmond Rogers as well. Most of his session wasn’t recorded, but it was by far the most entertaining. Not something attendees will soon forget!

A human solution to a human problem.

The final day wrapped up with the critical infrastructure panel, where nation-state hacking, IoT and the spectre of ‘bad’ cyber regulations were the main themes. I know I’m biased, but I couldn’t help but notice that all the discussions led back to a human solution — with humans as either beneficiary, target or actor.

It seems humans really do matter! How you ‘orchestrate’ them will determine if you have a top-ten hit or a flop.

And that was 31c0n. I met some amazing people, gained a plenty of insight and can’t wait to do it all again next year. By the time you read this, I’ll be back in the States, preparing for Troopers17 and looking forward to another epic Packetwars Battle. Catch you soon…