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The Ostrich Effect

Posted By David Marble, Thursday, September 13, 2018


Since it is the time of year when students return to school, I figured it was time for me to get back to blogging.  I have spent a fair amount of time this summer listening to podcasts, something I had not done much of previously.  My musings have been in the areas of social sciences, behavior, consciousness and yes, even a bit of politics, but only as politics relate to the other subjects.  I came across a series on NPR called “The Hidden Brain” that I have found interesting.  In one episode, I immediately resonated with the subject matter as it translated directly to the IT profession and behavior borne out by statistics.  The episode was entitled “The Ostrich Effect” which as one could guess, set out to discuss the underlying behavior of humans who stick their head in the sand and avoid learning information surrounding a potentially negative topic.  They noted for example, that people check their stock portfolio more often when the market is good than when it is going down.  Repeatedly, research examples of information aversion were explored for topics like healthcare, finance and even politics.  Perceived potential for undue stress and fear are cited as the main reason people avoid gaining deeper understanding of a controversial subject.  Rational behavior would dictate the opposite approach as one of the podcast participants stated, “A person should never avoid information because information can never hurt a decision.”  Subsequent related podcasts I listened to this summer talked about the idea of knowing the information and still choosing the wrong path like when I order the lasagna instead of the salad for lunch.  There is some fascinating research being done to try and figure out why we make wrong choices even when we know the right one.


My immediate thought in listening to these discussions was the relevance to our current cybersecurity landscape.  I have heard numerous studies cited that describe the state of business cybersecurity readiness as 30% in denial, 30% active and working and the rest aware and partially in the game.  That tells me that more than half of our businesses are suffering from some form of the “Ostrich Effect”.  A common thread we hear is the lack of understanding of how to even get started and what they will find when they look!  Great tools exist for assessment and baselining from Penetration (PEN) tests to phishing analyzers to NIST framework compliance templates.  From first-hand experience and discussions with some of our members who have done the up-front analysis, you can expect to fight the after effects of removing your head from the proverbial sand.  Most, if not all, assessments will highlight numerous vulnerabilities, point out areas of improvement and set the stage to prioritize that improvement.  Some vulnerabilities will be significant and the fact that you were unaware tugs at the egos of executives and staff.  This is the crux of getting beyond the ostrich.  Our present day cyberwar is no place for emotion.  Rational behavior dictates deep knowledge of the subject matter and continuous diligence.  Once the assessments and baselining process is complete, one can move to “choosing the salad”.  For instance, when you know 80% of breaches are through password hacks, you then choose to implement a password manager instead of keeping 12345.


I do think things are getting better.  Maybe the headlines and high profile cases that are forcing the issue so I am pleased with the progress albeit it may not be for the right reason.  Fear is a strong motivator but the “Ostrich Effect” research cited above suggests rationality might be a better one.

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Internet2 Azure Express Route Service

Posted By David Marble, Thursday, March 1, 2018


Reprinted from a guest blog post at Internet2


OSHEAN, Rhode Island’s Research and Education Network (REN), is participating with Internet2 on a Proof of Concept (POC) for cloud connectivity aligning with the overall community effort to explore next generation network infrastructure. This particular POC initially focuses on the consumption model for Microsoft Azure but it is accepted that the general model will apply to other cloud providers. In my request to Internet2 for a trial, I posited that the Regionals and Internet2 play an important role in providing simplified yet robust access to the major cloud providers and that the complexities of the network infrastructure needed for cloud services are often underestimated by our members.  The role we play in simplifying, managing and even automating the configurations for network connectivity for cloud payloads is highly valuable and has proven to be an important component of OSHEAN’s current cloud offerings.

OSHEAN was the first member to take advantage of Internet2’s recent announcement of the availability of Microsoft Azure Direct Connect peering in Ashburn, VA.  With the help of Internet2 and Northern Crossroads (NoX) engineers, our network engineers were able to implement a Layer2 payload service through OSHEAN’s infrastructure and across Internet2’s AL2S service to the ExpressRoute service in Ashburn VA.  OSHEAN also established a Layer3 connection as well for comparative purpose.  We intend to compare the technical and business ability to support payloads through the R&E community versus traditional commercial methods.  It is OSHEAN’s hypothesis that the answers will show better control, performance, security, resilience and visibility of cloud payloads while lowering cost profiles for connections.  OSHEAN is currently moving to the phase of the testing whereby its PoC member partner, Brown University, will start to evaluate using this connection method for selected enterprise applications.


A second component of the PoC will introduce a technology vendor to implement SDN technology over the Internet2 backbone for Azure Express Route connectivity.  OSHEAN envisions an adaptation of SD-WAN techniques to be a potentially valuable tool to help automate and manage cloud connections. We believe that, as the technical nuances and true economics of cloud migration become better understood, members will start to send application payloads to a variety of cloud services depending on the individual technical and business considerations of the application itself.  SD-WAN, applied in a consistent method across our peering choices, will simplify/automate configuration, increase security and increase management visibility for all our members. Stay tuned!

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Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Here is the link to my interview with GoLocalProv this past week....


It was a fun interview and I like their format and Kate did a nice job.  It was easier than writing my blog!

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Guest Blog for Internet2

Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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Posted By David Marble, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This Friday we are holding our annual Member Forum.  As is practice, we were looking at themes for the event and I suggested the word “disruption”.  Certainly not a novel concept and one that is used often in our industry.  However, the more I have been thinking about the word and its use, the more intrigued I am by the nature of its meaning.  A blog like this might normally default to looking up the definition and picking it apart.  I resisted that temptation because I believe there are so many connotations that it borders on being one of those words that means different things to different people in different contexts.  Many people have a direct line from disruption to stress.  The stress meter redlines as soon as the envisioned plan experiences deviation.  Planning becomes the antithesis of disruption.  If we were all perfect planners and all seers, disruption would disappear.


Is disruption good or bad?  Do you view the word from a negative, positive or neutral perspective?  An alarm clock is certainly disruptive, especially in the middle of a wonderful dream.  We have all experienced the disappointment and even anger when it goes off.  But doesn’t it depend on why it is set to go off in the first place?  If it is waking you up so you can arrive at your wedding on time, the disruption is welcome.  I maintain that reactions to disruption are all about ones outlook and overall perspective on dealing with things unforeseen.  I am enamored by the analogy to the rumble strip on the side of the highway that jolts a driver who nods off.  Certainly disruptive but potentially in a life-saving way.  In a business context, I have certainly witnessed disruptive events that act like the rumble strip, jolting a company from complacency and making them better for it.  At the conference, you will hear about both sides of the coin.  Disruptions that truly led off course in a negative way and those that had profound positive impact.  I enjoyed the Atrion “Always On” symposium this year which had the theme “Resilience” with wonderful talks from people who had life changing “disruptions” and their stories of perseverance.


We in IT deal with the concept of disruption constantly.  Much of our objectives center around the minimization of disruption.  Disaster Recovery is now termed Business Continuity as we make technical progress toward the ability make applications always available.  Planning for disruption is interesting; just try to get a maintenance window for a network like OSHEAN’s and you will see how much tolerance there is for disruption.  We continue to raise expectations and expectation rarely deals with the unforeseen.  That translates into requirements to spend more and more time in planning and practice.  One of the great features in our Cloud DR service is the ability to test failover while in production.  The technology affords us with an unprecedented level of planning and practice to set an expectation of result in the event of an actual disruptive event.  We in IT live the opposite of “no expectations therefore never disappointed”.  Cybersecurity is a classic case study in planning for disruptive agents and events that cannot be characterized entirely.  Frameworks are the key elements used in cybersecurity planning as many times exacting detail is elusive.


I am looking forward to the event this week and hope to see you there!

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