IT Life: Security Down The Years

craig Kensek AhnLab

Craig Kensek has been doing security since the “I Love You” virus was doing the rounds

Craig Kensek is senior manager at security firm AhnLab.  He’s been 27 years in the industy, with previous stints at Blue Coat, AVG, McAfee and trend Micro, so he lives and breathes security and storage.

What has been your favourite project so far?
I’ll mention a trio. I was involved with rolling out one of the first web-based storage management consoles. It was in alpha/beta and didn’t work on one particular flavour of Unix. We put the box it was running on behind the curtain, told people at the event it was running on that flavour, and still ended up rebooting whenever people weren’t around.

A second one was when I did the work involved in repositioning and rebranding a security company. We brainstormed options and I went on the road with a professional “focus group leader”. At the assistance of one of the executives, we tested “eDoctor” as a possible new name. At the site of the first focus group, one individual said, “eDoctor. Is that when I catch an eDisease?” The rest of the room started laughing. Needless to say, that was the reaction at multiple cities, and “eDoctor” was euthanized.

viruseslargeRemember the I Love You virus?

What technology were you involved with ten years ago?
Internet security. Ten years sounds like a generation. Just after the “I love you” and “Anna Kornikova” viruses. You didn’t have to deal with hundreds of variations and unique viruses a day. However, the numbers were escalating. One company I was with thought that they had enough pattern file update numbers to last for years. This had to do with the design of the company’s anti-virus scan engine. When it became apparent that we’d run out by the end of the year, there was major project to update the scan engine. In non-typical internet speed, the group tasked with this took over ½ day just to come up with the name of the task force. Ouch.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
Whatever it is, it will be cloud based. The reasons? Easy scalability and version-less solutions. With cloud based solutions, a customer can pay as they grow.

Of course, there may always be a retro backlash and people will want to innovate using COBOL and FORTRAN.

225pxstevewozniakWho’s your tech hero?
Co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak, aka, the Woz. Brilliant person. Just a nice person. He has never really grown up and has no major ego. Going back to college was an interesting move on his part. The trend for entrepreneurs now is to innovate while in college and just drop out and monetise as soon as you’ve innovated.

When editor/writer Daniel Lyons was outed as the “Fake Steve Jobs” went on a book tour several years ago, Woz actually introduced Lyons at a book reading at Kepler Books, in Menlo Park, California. You have to admire a man like Woz who will stay up all night with the masses outside an Apple store to buy the next greatest thing, rather than just calling Apple and asking for a device.

Steve Jobs B&W obitWho’s your tech villain?
If I have to narrow it down to one, I’ll hire a food tester and say Steve Jobs. Despite his drive for “perfection”, he did not come across as a pleasant person in his 2011 biography. Anecdotally, some of the more negative aspects did not even make it into the book.

Others in the company were not given enough credit by him for their work. Those doing the development should receive the credit (and at least share the patent recognition). That said I have never worked for Apple. The “closed Mac” strategy preferred by Apple almost resulted in the bankruptcy of the company. Who knows what additional innovations might have taken place if the Mac had been opened up?

Innovation and professional respect aren’t mutually exclusive. That said, he did drive some people to achieve at a higher level than they may have otherwise.

What’s your favourite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
Unfortunately, way too many technology devices I’ve used are also on display in a computer history museum in Menlo Park, California. I’ve invested way too much in Lasik surgery to wear Google Glass. I don’t want to look as if I’ve been assimilated by the Borg.

Relational databases and search engines have been great time savers from both a professional and personal perspective. I think I’ve lost brain cells due to the voice recognition capability on my mobile device, though. I spend a fair amount of time using a laptop each day in my work. In my spare time, I don’t play online games and I’m not wedded to Facebook. Sorry, Zuck.

It’ll be interesting to see over the next generation the effect of being able to Google everything or using voice recognition will have on people’s ability to remember things.

What is your budget outlook going forward? Flat? Growing?
Slow growth. We’re being cognisant of cash flow at the moment.

Salesforce cloudApart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
The way industry cycles, today’s “great companies” are tomorrows “what happened?” Tom Peters and Jim Collins notwithstanding. I looked at Fortune Magazine’s 100 best companies to work for and went “who are they?” for most of them. The only company in the Fortune with respect to innovation would be Apple.

I admire for the way they driven making “the cloud” a viable business model. I admire the way companies like Barnes and Noble and Amazon created a marketing/sales machine and created the need for people to want something delivered to them “tomorrow”. However, I’m not fond of what this has done for smaller businesses.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Keeping up with changes in technology and managing the state where end users want to control their devices. It used to be easier when you would buy hardware and depreciate it over three years and then replace. With some technologies, three years is way too long. The buzz acronym du juour is BYOD. IT departments are probably unhappy that that camel not only got its nose under the tent, but the camel is now in the tent. So now IT departments have to figure out how to let people use their own devices, and still protect their data and their network.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
As mentioned earlier, companies should probably “cloud” for reasons of scalability and ability to have the latest and greatest features and functionalities in the software their business uses. The caveat may be with storage. Where does that data really reside in the end, and is it protected? I’d look for more press about private clouds and data encryption. We’re still in the mode where you can ask five people to define “cloud” and receive five different answers.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
That’s a tough one. I never went through an, “I want to be a fireman” stage. Prior to college, in high school, I was interested in biomedical engineering. I was prescient. What can I say?

However, I would have had to design the major and would have had to complete what would have essentially been both an engineering and pre med curriculum. Can you say, “No social life?”

In college, I took an interest inventory test. The highest scores involved either writing comic books or becoming a rock star. My guitar playing would scare people away as would my drawing ability. So I completed my BS in chemical engineering at Stanford and went on to Kellogg for business school.

Shhh! Do our whistleblowers quiz, but keep it quiet…