Thursday, November 27, 2014

Selective Listening Can Kill Your Business (Thank You Gordon Ramsay)

The problem of selective listening (hearing only what you want to hear while ignoring all else) has killed a lot of businesses, especially restaurants. In fact, I suspect that the problem is pervasive across all industries and government agencies.

On Kitchen Nightmares, I watched restauranteurs who were at the brink of closing argue with Chef Ramsay that the problem wasn't the tasteless, frozen, microwaved crap that they served in their almost empty restaurant. It couldn't be because "everyone loves my food".  "Who's everyone? Your restaurant's empty", Ramsay would say. Then there were owners like Sebastian (Sebastian's Pizza) and David (The Black Pearl) whose egos wouldn't allow them to take advice.

I credit Ramsay's series about failing restaurants for helping me avoid those traps and others while I launched and built the Suits and Spooks security event series. After all, a conference is a lot like a pop-up restaurant except with worse food.

I wanted more than anything to build something that was different and that would deliver value to my customers. Inspired by what I learned from Gordon, I picked interesting and unique venues. I imagined that I was creating a menu when I curated my speakers - selecting ones that would add a unique "flavor profile" to Suits and Spooks attendees.  I made sure that I greeted every attendee personally, and listened to their feedback - both positive and negative.

The result was that Suits and Spooks, launched in September, 2011, was sold to Wired Business Media in April, 2014, just two months before Gordon Ramsay announced that after 12 seasons and 123 episodes, Kitchen Nightmares would wrap for good.

So today, on Thanksgiving, I'd like to say thank you to Gordon Ramsay for producing a show that inspired me to build something that I was passionate about and make it a success.

Monday, November 24, 2014

SEC Risk Factors: How To Determine The Business Value Of Your Data To A Foreign Government

“Consistent with the Regulation S-K Item 503(c) requirements for risk factor disclosures generally, cybersecurity risk disclosure provided must adequately describe the nature of the material risks and specify how each risk affects the registrant. Registrants should not present risks that could apply to any issuer or any offering and should avoid generic risk factor disclosure.”


The SEC’s Cybersecurity Disclosure Guidance of 2011, President Obama’s Executive Order 13636 on Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (2013) and the launch of NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework (2014) has had a major impact on publicly traded companies and financial institutions who are struggling with quantifying their risk analysis in the new domain of cyberspace.

While the SEC has not yet codified its cybersecurity guidance (Corp Fin Disclosure Guidance: Topic No. 2), it has already issued 50 comment letters to public companies that have not adequately complied with the new guidelines. In fact, that appears to be a long-standing complaint of the SEC staff who would “like [registrants] to ... get away from mind-numbing risk factors disclosures to a more targeted discussion.”

Although the SEC’s cybersecurity guidelines aren’t yet regulations, the disclosure of risk factors such as credit and liquidity have been a requirement for many years3 and a mandatory non- generic risk factor analysis of a company’s digital assets cannot be far off. The dilemma that boards and general counsels are facing today is that too much disclosure might hurt the company’s business, while too little disclosure may, at a minimum, result in the company receiving an SEC comment letter.

This white paper will explore where the SEC is headed on this issue and propose a novel solution that’s both specific to the company and avoids the potential danger of revealing too much information about company vulnerabilities - the ability to verifiably assess the value of your intellectual property (IP) to a rival Nation State by establishing its Target Asset Value™.

You can obtain a copy by visiting the Taia Global website.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Who Developed China's Laser Weapon and Other Things That Go Boom?

China has spent the last few days showcasing its latest military technology including this new laser weapon that can shoot down drones a mile away in 5 seconds after locating the target. However, if you're like me you'll want to know who built it and what else are they working on!

Well, now you can find out. Here's a 5 minute demo of our new REDACT Search product which tackles that very question. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Musashi's "The Way of Self Reliance" (Wilson translation)

Japanese swordsmanship has been a hobby of mine for almost 35 years, and the most famous of all Japanese swordsman is Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings.

One week before his death, he wrote "The Way of Walking Alone" (Dokkodo). I read the translation written by William Scott Wilson, which like all of Wilson's work, was carefully constructed from primary documents. Then I looked online to see if there was a version of it that I could link to. Instead, I found an awful alternative translation that has been repeated ad infinitum.

So on Veterans Day and to honor the memory of one of the world's greatest swordsmen, I've reproduced what I believe is the superior translation of "The Way of Self Reliance", found in William Scott Wilson's translation of Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings.


Shrike on a Withered Branch
by Miyamoto Musashi
THE WAY OF WALKING ALONE (or The Way of Self-Reliance)

  • Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.
  • Do not scheme for physical pleasure.
  • Do not intend to rely on anything.
  • Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.
  • Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.
  • Do not regret things about your own personal life.
  • Do not envy another's good or evil.
  • Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.
  • Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.
  • Have no heart for approaching the path of love.
  • Do not have preferences.
  • Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.
  • Do not have a liking for delicious food for youself.
  • Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.
  • Do not fast so that it affects you physically.
  • While it's different with military equipment, do not be fond of material things.
  • While on the Way, do not begrudge death.
  • Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.
  • Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.
  • Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.
  • Never depart from the Way of the Martial Arts.

Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho [1645]
Shinmen Musashi

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Frank Martin" of the U.S. Government Grants Department Wants To Give Me $14,566

I just ended a ridiculous but entertaining call with "Frank Martin" of the "U.S. Government Grant Department" who wanted to give me $14,566 for being a good taxpayer. I stayed on the line with him for about 20 minutes because I wanted to learn as much about the scam as I could.

Here's more or less how it went:

0823 PST my home phone rings. The caller ID reads PENNSYLVANIA 267-973-6174.

A heavily accented voice asks if this is Jeffrey Carr, and then proceeds to tell me that she's calling from the government grant department.

Oh, yes. I said. The government grant department. That's part of the U.S. Treasury, right?

"That's right Mr. Jeffrey. We just need to verify your information."

[The caller reads me my street address, city, state and zip code. All are accurate.]

"Now sir, would you like to receive your grant money on a credit card, debit card, pre-paid debit card, or in your bank account?"

Pre-paid debit card, I say, as I pull out my handy (and empty) pre-paid Visa gift card that I keep for calls just like these.

"Please read me the number, sir."

I read it off the card.

"And the last four digits of your social security number"

I invent 4 digits and give them to her.

I'm now told that I've been chosen to receive a grant of between $5,000 and $15,000. My government approval number is WA23134, and I'm to call the grant manager in Washington DC at (202) 738-4264.

We hang up. I now call the DC number.


I must have let it ring 20 times. No answer.

A few minutes later, my home phone rings again.

The person I just spoke with is back and says that she'll try to connect me.

She tries twice and finally I get to speak with a grant manager named "Frank Martin", who's clearly of Indian descent. Mr. Martin wants to assure me that this program is very real, and asks me to write down the following information:
The Government Grants Office is located at 200 Independence Avenue, SW, Health and Human Services Building, Washington DC 20201. His government badge number is FM2586 and his phone number is (202) 738-4264.
So, not the U.S. Treasury.
"Jeffrey", Frank says, "are you at your computer?"
"I want you to go to this website:"
[I open a sandboxed browser.]  OK, Frank. I'm there.
"Now see the search window on the right side? Type in my name - Frank Martin."
Got it.
"Now see the 2nd entry where it says Frank Martin, and where it shows how much money I've given out in grants? That's me."

[This idiot didn't notice the "," between "frank" and "martin". The "frank, martin" he pointed me to is Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society.]

Oh, yes. You've given out a lot of money, Frank. 
"Yes, Jeffrey, and because you've been a good taxpayer, we want to give you $14,566. Now, what is your date of birth?"
I give him a DOB a few years and a few months off from my own.
"Oh, you don't sound that old, Jeffrey. You sound like you're only 20 or 22 years old! OK, let me verify all of your information because this is a lot of money and we want to make sure that you are really who you say you are."
The line is quiet for 10 seconds while he verifies my fake DOB, fake last 4 digits of my SS, etc. 
"Very good, Jeffrey. Now may I ask what you'll be using the grant money for?"
A cruise. Is that allowed?
"A cruise? Sure. You can take a cruise, buy a car, anything you like. It's your money. Just don't use it for any illegal activities!"
Oh, no. Not me. 
"So now we are at the verification step. You must go to a store near you and send me a verification voucher. Because, you know, there are a lot of Jeffrey Carr's in the United States. We can't risk giving money to the wrong Jeffrey Carr! Do you have a Rite-Aid or something like that near you?"
How about Walmart?
"No, not Walmart. Wait, I'll check for you. OK, I see that you're close to a QFC store. How long will it take you to drive there?"
Oh, about 20 minutes.
"Do you have a cell phone?"
I can borrow one from my neighbor.

"OK, go to the store and then call me from the parking lot. I'll tell you exactly how to do the verification voucher and then I'll stay on the line until you see the money has been transferred to your pre-paid Visa card." 
"Now Jeffrey, you need to bring three things with you: a picture ID, a cell phone with a charged battery, and $275 in cash which is a fully-refundable verification fee. You understand what "fully-refundable" means, Jeffrey?" 
Um, yes. 
"So after you send us the voucher verification, your fee is then refunded back on your Visa card along with your grant money. See, we have to do it this way because it would be fraud if we asked you to send us money from your checking account or from your credit card and we aren't trying to defraud you. Only bad people ask you to send money from your bank account. That's we ask for cash."
Yes, cash is much better, Frank. Thank you.

[So now that Frank is done with his pitch, it's my turn to have some fun.]

By the way, Frank, are you at your computer?
"Yes, why?"
Well, you've been so nice sharing information about yourself, I thought you might want to see who I am. Do you know Just type in "Jeffrey Carr". I'll be the first name that comes up.
"I'm sorry, Jeffrey. My computer doesn't seem to be working right now. "
Oh, that's OK, Frank. When your computer is working again, just go to, and you can read all about this little fraud of yours online.
Frank? Are you there?


The FTC has a page for Free Grant Fiction here. This seems to be the latest iteration.