Category Archives: National Security

“A Song for the Deaf” (and the Blind)

Songs for the Deaf, released on August 27 2002, was the third studio album by Queens of the Stone Age. There is a track on there called “A Song for the Deaf” with a line in the lyrics:

No talk will cure what’s lost, or save what’s left

That line does just fine at summing up my attitude to the long term prospects for the privacy of our data and our privacy rights as individuals. The multiplicity of additional data points that will become available with the mainstream adoption of wearables, AR, and VR squares the circle by adding kinematic fingerprinting and emotion detection to the digital surveillance arsenal.

The concerted effort by “authority” to normalise the invasion of our privacy as citizens of democracies will succeed. It is worth noting at this point that the historic permission to look at our (non-US citizens) data is for the most part secretively mandated or just plain illegal.

In the interim I simply see it as my hobby to be a contrarian and frankly I do not give one iota what that looks like to prospective employers, clients, or colleagues. Too many people look at you sideways these days when you seek to insist that we are throwing away our rights in favour of some US manufactured bogey-man fear figure.

But despite the ever increasing powers granted there are far too many people gainfully employed in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the cottage industries and corporates that serve them to hope that one day their combined efforts might actually result in an improvement in the threat landscape.

Narrowing the Debate

One of the methods often used to divert attention from the overall issues that present themselves with respect to mass surveillance is to seek to narrow the debate. Some people will say that debating each element in isolation is enough. It is not.

The police-intelcom barrier or rather the lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations or the illegal overriding of such barriers is one of the reasons why. Too many blurred lines exist. Mass surveillance data acquired for national security purposes now routinely ends up in the hands of local law enforcement investigating matters unrelated to national security.

The opacity of US laws and SIGINT collection methods is potentially an abuse of the rights of every defendant that comes in front of their Courts. Increasingly, that is just about anybody that they can lay their hands on, from anywhere. The US position on most of these matters is ephemeral. [Max Schrems maintains the main protections provided by the US for data privacy rights of EU citizens have no statutory basis and “could be altered tomorrow”]

To suggest that one can compartmentalise each different element of the mass surveillance equation and debate each piece of legislation on its own merits, to the exclusion of the others, is a fallacy.

They all add up to the same thing in the hands of the governments or organisations that possess the resources, access, and “authority” (normally self granted) to mine the data.

This post was prompted by Chris Gebhardt‍ and the article he penned on Peerlyst‍ titled “The US Government Should Have Access to All Encrypted Devices of US Citizens“.

I commented “I utterly disagree with your thesis on every level. I disagree with you on the basis that I do not accept your segmentation of rights and protections in statute that govern legacy personal freedoms, due process, habeas corpus, et al. and the stratagem that you have employed to roll them up into an argument for weakened privacy (encryption). I believe that your reliance on these legacy instruments makes the flawed assumption that they were correct. In my view, they were not.

Chris was keen to keep the debate focussed on the US. So I asked:

Maybe we can circumvent the specifics of either geography and focus the discussion on a universal question which is capable of also addressing the specifics of your argument. The US does not respect digital borders and engages in frequent – and as policyillegal searches and seizures in a clandestine manner for non natsec matters and “ordinary” criminal matters. Now the US having weathered the outrage storm is legislating vigourously for the normalisation of these abnormalities which were in fact illegal under traditional law also.

The debate between us therefore could be something like – to date have existing laws and the application and oversight of the powers granted by those laws served us well and if so are they also suited for export to the digital domain. If not, then why should those who currently enjoy freedoms in the digital domain subject themselves to laws that they disagreed with in the real world context or were shown to have been widely abused, and more specifically how can a body of agencies who gladly engaged in widespread illegal activities expect people to surrender to their request?

Chris replied:

That is fine but I believe it is a separate post. Perhaps you should start one. I started this one to specifically target the US privacy issue under Constitutional authority. International expectations are a completely different matter.

So here it is.

Image: Screen grab from the QOTSA video “Go With The Flow


PODCAST Panel #1: PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security


Since mid December 2017 our panel was preparing for this first in the series of discussions regarding Privacy -vs- National Security hosted by and drawn from Peerlystcommunity members.

The panel was drawn from a range of disciplines and interests but what united all of the participants was that we are people who are passionate about infosec, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

This series is primarily concerned with how we might align the privacy rights of citizens with the imperatives of predicting, preventing, and reacting to internal & external national security threats.

Our objective was to deliver an opening discussion on the subject matter that would compel further debate and interest, but also attempt to compartmentalise the discrete elements, for discussion on future panels , while at the same time demonstrating the scale of the issues involved with practical real world, non-theoretical examples.

Over the preparation period several pieces were authored on the subject of Privacy -vs- National Security. The links to these associated posts are:

  1. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: One Post To Rule Them All
  2. Video Introduction to Podcast #1 of the PeerTalk™ Privacy -v- National Security Podcast Panel Series
  3. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: Preserve Peace Through (Cyber & Intelligence) Strength
  4. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security Sources: In Isolation & Where They Intersect
  5. PeerTalk™ Peerlyst Panel: Privacy vs National Security
  6. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: Gülen FETÖ/PDY, Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) & ByLock
  7. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: You (encryption advocates) are “jerks”, “evil geniuses”, and “pervert facilitators”
  8. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: The Rogues Gallery of Encryption Luddites (Updated 01.16.2018)
  9. Also included below were two essays from panel member Geordie B Stewart MSc CISSP
    1. Polluting the Privacy Debate
    2. Ethical Compromises in the Name of National Security

The questions to the panel in preparation for the discussion were these:

  1. Are recent actions by the Turkish intelligence community reasonable with the backdrop of an alleged serious threat to the security of the state?
  2. Could one ever imagine a similar scenario in the West and if so would it ever be justified?
  3. Does the panel think that while broad brush application of these types of tools and methods by law enforcement and the intelligence community does not happen in the West, does it happen on a case by case basis?
  4. If so, is protecting one person from a miscarriage of justice using illegally obtained surveillance data more important than allowing warrantless mass surveillance and trusting that the intelligence community and political / commercial interests will not abuse the knowledge yielded from the data and rather use it for the national interest?
  5. Finally, does the panel have faith in the oversight and governance mechanism looking to protect citizens of Western nations whose data is acquired by programs such as PRISM and queried using tools such as XKeyscore?”

The panellists were:

Graham Joseph Penrose‍ (Moderator), Interim Manager in a range of Startups, Privacy Advocate, Avid Blogger, and Homeless Activist. I began my career in IT 30 years ago in Banking and in the intervening period I have applied technology and in particular secure communications to assist me in various roles but most aggressively as the owner of a Private MilitarySecurity Company operating in High Risk Areas globally. I am apparently a Thought Leader and Authority in the Privacy space according to various independent third party research organisations and I am member of the IBM Systems Innovators Program.

Kim Crawley‍, Cybersecurity Journalist. A respected and valued contributor to Peerlyst and publications including Cylance,AlienVault, Tripwire, and Venafi.

Emily Crose‍, Network Security Researcher with 10 years experience in both offensive and defensive security roles, 7 of those years were spent in the service of the United States Intelligence Community. She is currently the director of the Nemesis projectand works for a cyber security startup in the Washington DC area.

Lewis De Payne‍, Board Member, Vice President & CTO/CISO of medical diagnostics company aiHEALTH, LLC. CTO/CIIO of a social commerce startup and a founding shareholder in Keynetics responsible for the patented online fraud control tools known as Kount. Lewis has had some adversarial contacts with the FBI that are documented in several of Kevin Mitnick’s (and other writers’) books. Lewis electronically wiretapped the FBI and other law enforcement bureaus, and recorded some of their activities (which included having informants perform illegal wiretaps, so they could gain probable cause to obtain search warrants). In his younger days, Lewis took the US government to court several times In one case his proceedings set legalprecedent when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard his Jencks Action and ruled in his favour causing the FBI to have to return all seized property (and computers) to him, and others.

Geordie B Stewart MSc CISSP‍, Director at Risk Intelligence which company provides a range of specialist infosec services to organisations including risk analysis, policy development, security auditing and compliance, education, training, and continuity planning. Geordie writes and speaks frequently on the topics of Privacy, Ethics and National Security. Partly because he thinks they are important topics, but partly to increase his embarrassment when his web history eventually leaks. Geordie also writes the security awareness column for the ISSA Journal and works in senior security leadership roles for large organisations.

Dean Webb‍, Network Security Specialist. Dean has 12 years of experience in IT and IT Security, as well as over two decades as an instructor and journalist with particular focus on national security issues, espionage, and civil rights.

We enjoyed a wide ranging and informative discussion over the course of the 90 minutes and while we were not in a position to cover all of the material it was a very acceptable starting point and a stake in the ground with respect to what the community can expect from this series of panels.

I opened the discussion with the question:

“Where do the panellists believe that the line should be drawn between what are personal privacy rights versus the needs of national security and do the panellists think that in recent years the public in an atmosphere of “fear” has too easily surrendered a range of privacy rights in favour of national security?”

Please enjoy the recording below which we hope you will find compelling enough to share with your community. We are looking forward to your feedback and we would be very pleased to have your comments, suggestions, and questions. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the Peerlyst YouTube channel so as not to miss the next in our series and also recordings of all of the other panels coming out of the PeerTalk™ initiative.)


Focus on Kaspersky hides facts of another NSA contractor theft

The Wall Street Journal based their story on the fact that another NSA contractor took classified documents home with him. Yet another Russian intelligence operation stole copies of those documents. The twist this time is that the Russians identified the documents because the contractor had Kaspersky Labs anti-virus installed on his home computer.

This is either an example of the Russians subverting a perfectly reasonable security feature in Kaspersky’s products, or Kaspersky adding a plausible feature at the request of Russian intelligence. In the latter case, it’s a nicely deniable Russian information operation. In either case, it’s an impressive Russian information operation.

This is a huge deal, both for the NSA and Kaspersky. The Wall Street Journal article contains no evidence, only unnamed sources. But I am having trouble seeing how the already embattled Kaspersky Labs survives this.

What’s getting a lot less press is yet another NSA contractor stealing top-secret cyberattack software. What is it with the NSA’s inability to keep anything secret anymore?

And it seems that Israeli intelligence penetrated the Kaspersky network and noticed the operation.

Full story on CRYPTO-GRAM October 15, 2017 by Bruce Schneier CTO, IBM Resilient


Does anyone have experience of “KAYMERA MOBILE THREAT DEFENSE SUITE”

We are looking at this platform in parallel with the SaltDNA app which I previously posted about.

Kaymera has a pre-installed secured Android OS with integrated high-end security components to detect, prevent and protect against all mobile security threats without compromising on functionality or usability. A contextual, risk-based app uses a range of indicators to identify a risk in real-time and apply the right security measure so mitigation is performed only when needed and appropriate. Their Cyber Command Centre framework manages and enforces organization-specific permissions, security protocols and device policies. Monitors risk level, threat activities and security posture per device and deploys countermeasures.

Any thoughts welcome.


Hacking EirGrid: NCSC MiA, GCHQ Inertia, US Data Centres, & Creating Backdoors to UK/EU Grid

This post was first published by me on Peerlyst on 7th August 2017.

This hack took place last April (2017) but the details are only emerging now. Hackers compromised EirGrid’s routers at Vodafone’s Direct Internet Access (DIA) service at Shotton, Wales. The MITM “virtual wire tap” then intercepted unencrypted messages between EirGrid and SONI (EirGrid NI). Firmware and files were copied from the compromised router devices but there is no estimate as to the scale of the breach or the magnitude of the data that was stolen.

The Role of NCSC & GCHQ

An informed source has confirmed to AirGap Anonymity Collective that this hack was going on for some time before it was “detected” and before EirGrid were informed – that was already reported.

However, the same source is also of the opinion that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ – instructed Vodafone not to tell EirGrid of the breach – while they tried to ascertain who the perpetrators were (understandable) but that this was for an unreasonably extended period of time.

The source is not clear on what portion of the estimated nine weeks of the hack overlapped with GCHQ’s attempts to identify the hackers.

Where was Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre while all of this was going on?

The Irish National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) & Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

Formally established in 2015. Together with the (CSIRT), they have responsibility for Ireland’s national cyber security defences. They say:

“The global cybersecurity threat landscape continues to pose an immense challenge. As part of wider efforts to address these security threats, the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) was approved in July 2016. Member States have until May 2018 to implement the NIS Directive, with both the NCSC and CSIRT playing a critical role in this regard.”

Seán Kyne – Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources & Digital Development – discussed the NCSC’s objectives, and offered his thoughts on the nature of the digital security threat to the public and private sector alike in a press conference last month.


EirGrid & UK Energy Policy

The UK has become increasingly reliant on off-shore wind farms and it’s power needs are augmented by the purchase of power generated in the Irish Midlands. Irish supplied power is key to the UK meeting its projected 2020 energy needs. The Irish supply is seeking to generate circa 3GW for the UK market.

The Irish national grid is managed by a company called EirGrid. They took over the Irish national grid in 2006 from ESB (the Electricity Supply Board). They own all of the physical electricity transmission assets in the country (about 7000kms of cable (fact check)).

As such, they run a monopoly and nearly all of the large independent generators (Airtricity, Synergen (70% EirGrid) Viridian and others) connect to the transmission system and utilise it to transport their power to all regions and abroad. They also operate the wholesale power market and operate (and own) the 500 MW East–West Interconnector, linking the Irish power system to Great Britain’s grid.

Last month the operator was awarded over €20 million by the EU to fund research into the deployment of renewable energy. Ireland’s own target, set out by the European Union, is to secure 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“We won’t have enough renewable energy left over to export to the UK without completing some specific projects, such as the proposed Midlands development,” according to Fintan Slye (EirGrid CEO). “There are sufficient renewable projects in train to meet the 2020 targets, but it’ll still be challenging. There are 2,000MW connected across the island – we need to get that to over 4,000MW by 2020.”

The EU is also funding a France-Ireland power link (that bypasses the UK) via an undersea cable as an “obvious solution” to Ireland’s energy reliance on a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

Motives – All Those Data Centres in Ireland & A BackDoor to the EU/UK Grids 


Extract from EirGrid Group All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2016-2025:

“2.2(d) Data Centres in IrelandA key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the next number of years is the connection of large data centres.Whether connecting directly to the transmission system or to the distribution network, there is presently about 250 MVA of installed data centres in Ireland. Furthermore, there are connection offers in place (or in the connection process) for approximately a further 600 MVA. At present, there are enquires for another 1,100 MVA. This possibility of an additional 1700 MVA of demand is significant in the context of a system with a peak demand in 2014/15 of about 4700 MW (where it would add 35%). In forecasting future demand, we need to appreciate that data centres normally have a flat demand profile.”


Lots but the most likely candidate for this hack is Russia – why? Because I cast lots, sacrificed a chicken, and got my Tarot cards read. And also …

Irish energy networks being targeted by hackers – Hackers have targeted Irish energy networks amid warnings over the potential impact of intensifying cyber attacks on crucial infrastructure. Senior engineers at the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which supplies both Northern Ireland and the Republic, were sent personalised emails containing malicious software by a group linked to Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, reported.
Inside the Cunning, Unprecedented Hack of Ukraine’s Power Grid – It was 3:30 p.m. last December 23, and residents of the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Western Ukraine were preparing to end their workday and head home through the cold winter streets. Inside the Prykarpattyaoblenergo control center, which distributes power to the region’s residents, operators too were nearing the end of their shift.
Ukraine power cut ‘was cyber-attack’ – BBC News – A power cut that hit part of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in December has been judged a cyber-attack by researchers investigating the incident. The blackout lasted just over an hour and started just before midnight on 17 December. The cyber-security company Information Systems Security Partners (ISSP) has linked the incident to a hack and blackout in 2015 that affected 225,000.
Hackers targeting UK energy grid, GCHQ warns – Hackers may have compromised Britain’s energy grid, GCHQ has said as it warned that cyber criminals are targeting the country’s energy sector. The security agency said industrial control systems may have already been the victim of attacks by nation state hackers.



The USA, Narcissistic Rage, A Sense of Entitlement & Holding Our Rights Hostage

The US is taking a giant shit on all of us, and our rights. And we are letting them. This is a nation that is currently led by extremists who inherited the job from a crazily compromised administration.

I previously wrote in All The Presidents’ Messes:

“In my lifetime the American people have elected Nixon (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), Ford (by accident), Carter (Iranian Revolution & Iran Hostage debacle), Reagan (Funded the Taliban / Iran-Contra Affair / Nicaragua / El Salvador / Guatemala), Bush the First (Gulf War I), Clinton (Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti / Israel-Palestine / Ethnic Wars in Europe – Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims / Kosovo & Albania), Bush the Second (Iraq / Afghanistan), Obama (IRANDEAL, global appeasement, the relatively unopposed rise of ISIS, and the disintegration of Syria and Libya and Egypt as a result of US Foreign Policy failures) and now Trump.”

All US policy decisions and their side-effects, one way or the other, cascade down into our European democracies. In the current climate that should worry you.

Privacy Is An Absolute Right

I am interested in Privacy. The abuse of Privacy (1) has far more fundamental negative effects than might seem to be the case at first glance.

I am an advocate for the right of every citizen to a private life, the preservation of civil liberties, and the defence of other hard won rights. Technology or rather its unfettered deployment is the single biggest threat to our personal freedoms and by extension to the proper administration of justice.

And so I write about it. Sometimes the writing is a bit technical but most of the time it’s referencing the technical results of other peoples work to support my arguments (which I always acknowledge – most important that is)

Orwell 4.0

Technology facilitated developments have created new tools for the State, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Agencies to monitor not just person’s of interest but everyone (2). Software industry greed and software developer naivety is also driving an assault on our personal privacy and security (3).

These phenomena have already resulted in wholesale abuses (4) of habeas corpus, an alteration of the perception of what constitutes a fair trial, have worn down the right to silence of a suspect, made the avoidance of self-incrimination almost impossible, made illegal searches and seizures (5) acceptable, and encroached on the ability of defendants to construct a proper defence.

Recently, Graham Cluley (@gcluley) posted a clarification of a definition on Twitter“It’s always bugged me how people say “Innocent until proven guilty”. It’s “Innocent *unless* proven guilty” folks.” – that is worth thinking about in an age of trial by media and JTC-as-a-Service (JTC – Jumping to Conclusions a.k.a Fake News).

In parallel with this there is an increasing trend of “ordinary” crimes being tried in “extra-ordinary” courts, tribunals, or military courts. The checks and balances that used to notionally counter the power of the state and where the actions of government could be publicly scrutinized has almost ceased to effectively exist.

Surveillance politics, the rise of extremists on the left and the right, religious fanaticism, the re-emergence of censorship and even actual talk of “blasphemy laws” in the parliaments of Western democracies leaves one bewildered. How will we fare when even newer technologies such as VRSN, and AI with even greater capacity to embed themselves in our lives begin to mature from the novel stage into the deployment stage?

What will be the effect of kinematic fingerprinting, emotion detection (6), psychographic profiling (7), and thought extraction (8) on the right to privacy and basic freedoms. These are questions and concerns that get lost in the rush to innovate. Software companies and developers have a responsibility but they do not exercise it very often.

What are the ethics? What are the acceptable limits? What are the unforeseen by-products?

The US Has Claimed “Absolute Privilege”

The US is the bully on the block and its “bitch” friends the UK (9), Canada, New Zealand (10), & Australia (11) just follow its lead or actively facilitate them.

The opacity of US laws (12) and SIGINT collection methods is an abuse of the rights of every defendant that comes in front of their Courts. Increasingly, that is just about anybody that they can lay their hands on, from anywhere (13).

The election of Trump just solidified my view that the world has turned upside down and it seems that taking action to reverse the trend of the normalisation of the abnormal (14) is a Sisyphean task and just seems to encourage the buggers (15).

The US position on most of these matters is ephemeral – not just on data protection (16) – and US national interest, national security, or just plain duplicity (17) governs their agenda.

There is so much abuse of power by the US that it is impossible to keep tabs. These things used to matter (18). These things used to enrage us (19). The US has led a race to the bottom on so many fronts that the rest of the world seems to be suffering from bad news fatigue (20) and has zoned out (21).

It is individuals and NGO’s now that are the gatekeepers of our rights and the ones that hold governments to account and increasingly they are being marginalized.


(1) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; NSA, GCHQ, The Five Eyes Handing Ireland Cyber-Security Opportunity; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(2) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Mass Surveillance & The Oxford Comma Analogy; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(3) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Software Industry Greed is Driving the Assault on our Privacy & Security; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(4) Kim Zetter; 26th Oct 2017; The Most Controversial Hacking Cases of the Past Decade; Wired

(5) Andy Greenberg; 10th Oct 2014; Judge Rejects Defense That FBI Illegally Hacked Silk Road – On A Technicality; Wired

(6) Anonymous Chronic; 3rd Jan 2017; Orwell 4.0: The Stealth Advance of Kinematic Fingerprinting & Emotion Detection for Mass Manipulation; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(7) Anonymous Chronic; 4th Feb 2017; Is Kosinski “Tesla” to Nix’s “Marconi” for Big Data Psychographic Profiling?;AirGap Anonymity Collective

(8) Ian Johnston; 18th Apr 2017; Device that can literally read your mind invented by scientists; Independent

(9) Anonymous Chronic; 30th Nov 2016; My Privacy Lobotomy or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the IP Act; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(10) Anonymous Chronic; 3rd Nov 2016; Overwatch – The Five Eyes Espionage Alliance; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(11) Anonymous Chronic; 21st Nov 2016; Australia Is A Proxy War for the Five Eyes & Also Hogwarts; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(12) American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch; 21st Nov 2016; Joint letter to European Commission on EU-US Privacy Shield; Human Right Watch)

(13) Tom O’Connor; 6th Jul 2017; Russia Accuses US of Hunting and Kidnapping Its Citizens After Latest Arrests; Newsweek

(14) Anonymous Chronic; 29th Jan 2017; Take Action To Reverse The Present Trend Of The Normalisation of the Abnormal; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(15) Anonymous Chronic; 2nd Dec 2016; Silencing the Canary & The Key Powers & Reach of The IPA; AirGap Anonymity Collective

(16) Mary Carolan; 10th Mar 2017; Max Schrems claims US data privacy protections ‘ephemeral’; The Irish Times

(17) Shelley Moore Capito – United States Senator for West Virginia; 2nd Jul 2017; Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017;

(18) Adam Taylor; 23rd Apr 2015; The U.S. keeps killing Americans in drone strikes, mostly by accident; The Washington Post

(19) HRW; 9th Dec 2014; USA and Torture: A History of Hypocrisy; Human Rights Watch

(20) Shannon Sexton; 30th Aug 2016; Five Ways to Avoid ‘Bad-News Fatigue’ and Stay Compassionately Engaged; Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

(21) Susanne Babbel Ph.D.; 4th Jul 2012; Compassion Fatigue; Psychology Today

Data Is The New Perimeter in Emerging Age of Corporate-Espionage-as-a-Service

Last Tuesday, July 11 2017 I was pleased to listen to Mike Desens, Vice President, IBM Z and LinuxONE Offering Management, IBM Systems as he took myself and some colleagues through a preview and introduction of the z14 prior to the July 17 announcements *.

The overriding theme of the briefing was that IBM view the z14 as “Designed for Trusted Digital Experiences”. The last twenty four months in particular have seen data breaches that have seriously eroded public confidence in erstwhile trusted institutions and organizations.

There have been hacks that have embarrassed nations, and led to real fears about the risk that insecure data poses to our energy and commercial infrastructures not to mention the veracity of election results but I am not going there.

Shadow Brokers dumps and WikiLeaks releases of alphabet agency backdoors and toolkits have given cyber criminals (even the opportunists), and terrorist outfits almost nuclear-grade hacking capability when compared to 2014.

IBM are hoping that these real fears, but more particularly their real solution, will be the key driver in convincing customers to adopt the new platform.

Been There, Done That

I have seen this before (IBM pinning their hopes of making the mainframe cool by leveraging an unexpected turn of events). I worked on the deep end of the ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) ESP’s in the early 90’s (renamed Tivoli Storage Manager in 1999).

Back then entire banks ran on less DASD than your kid’s pot burner phone does right now (and that included all the IMS, CICS, and DB2 data). IBM pinned some of their hopes on maintaining their lucrative storage market share on ADSM in the face of EMC inroads. “Disk mirroring” however by EMC was the final blow when EMC turned an engineering weakness into a strength. It cost outsider Ed Zschau, ADSTAR Chairman and CEO, his job in 1995.

IBM had made a very valid argument for ADSM adoption. All that data on the newly acquired (mostly by accident and without permission by rogue business units – especially the capital markets mavericks), rapidly expanding, and poorly managed (in terms of Disaster Recover and Business Continuity at the very least) AS/400, Tandem, and NT infrastructure was best managed on the mainframe storage farm.

This also included using those new-fangled robotic tape libraries on Level 2 (which even appeared in a few movies with perspex exterior, the StorageTek one though, not the IBM Magstar 3494 Tape Library).

It didn’t work though. Mainly because the network couldn’t handle the volumes, and record level backup was never going to work to help reduce the bandwidth requirements to fit the overnight backup windows what with the quagmire of proprietary databases that had sprung up.

GDPR Unwittingly Making the Market for “Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service”

But I digress so I will briefly digress again to another but equally valid potential driver for z adoption. And that is GDPR. Soon GDPR regulators will be gleefully fining corporates who fail to adequately protect their data the higher of EUR€20M or 4% of annual turnover, for each breach. That’s an instant laxative right there for the entire C-Suite.

But what the proposed GDPR penalty system also makes me wonder is how much of a market maker it is (unwittingly) for Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service (CEAAS) and Industrial-Espionage-As-A-Service (IEAAS).

Back On Message – Pervasive Encryption

Consequently, IBM have put security at the core of the new platform with “Pervasive Encryption as the new standardAnalytics & Machine Learning for Continuous Intelligence Across the Enterprise, and Open Enterprise Cloud to Extend, Connect and Innovate”.

Here are some stats to keep your CISO awake:

  1. Nearly 5.5 million records are stolen per day, 230,367 per hour and 3,839 per minute (Source:;
  2. Of the 9 Billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted (Source:;
  3. 26% is the likelihood of an organization having a data breach in the next 24 months(Source: ;
  4. The greatest security mistake organizations make is failing to protect their networks and data from internal threats. (Source:

The Z is arguably more powerful, more open and more secure than any commercial system on the planet and the box makes serious moves in the rapidly evolving domains of Machine Learning, Cloud and Blockchain. But again and again the focus comes back to Pervasive Encryption and that is the potential seismic shift that just might make the Z the go-to platform for organisations who can afford their own and the Cloud platform of choice for those who cannot.

Pervasive Encryption Is The New Standard

Back in the day as an MVS370 systems programmer I stressed about downtimes, availability stats, and the SLAs with business units. If I am being honest though I mostly stressed about the long holiday weekends spent in subterranean data centers upgrading ESP code or patching or migrating new releases from TEST to PROD LPARS or doing S390 disk mirrors.

Therefore when I first heard of the this bold new “encrypt it all” call to arms I wondered what the price for this would be in terms of the social lives and general marital stability of SPs globally.

However I am assured that the encryption “migration” involves no application changes, no impact to SLA’s, and that all of this application and database data can be encrypted without interrupting business applications and operations.

What’s Under the Hood

This section of the briefing was prefaced with the statement that the Z will deliver “unrivalled performance for secure workloads.” I have another post in the works with the tech spec dets on the encryption under the hood but for now here’s the 60k foot view:

“Industry exclusive protected key encryption, enabled through integration with a tamper- responding cryptographic HSM. All in-flight network data and API’s, true end-to-end data protection. 4x increase in silicon area allocated to cryptographic operations. 4 – 7x faster encryption of data with enhanced cryptographic performance. 18x fasterencryption than competition at 1/20th the cost to implement. 2x performance boost on Crypto Express6S. Securing the cloud by encrypting APIs 2-3x faster than x86 systems. Linux exploits Protected Key encryption for data at-rest.”

More later.

* From an article originally published on July 18 2017 on my Peerlyst blog