Jan 31 2013

Major News Outlets Attacked in Apparent Coordinated Campaign

This time it’s not about some Twitter account being hacked but serious business: It was major news when on January 30 The New York Times revealed that it had been hacked, with users passwords and various email accounts compromised. Today the Wall Street Journal stepped forward and announced that its computer systems had been infiltrated. The Journal claims “The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been probing these media incidents for more than a year.” Quite clearly there is a pattern here.

Although it may be easy to jump to (wrong) conclusions, especially regarding attribution of these attacks, a number of disturbing facts remain:

  • Many actors have an interest in knowing what stories will be published in advance, ranging from stock brokers to nation states
  • Revealing reporters’ sources by way of hacking into their accounts may have dire consequences for the sources, including torture and death. Most countries have laws protecting them for this very reason, but hacking circumvents all protection.
  • News outlets are rather small companies with limited budgets and limited resources for protecting their networks against determined attackers
  • News organizations are extremely vulnerable to attacks in which malicious code is supplied to employees by way of email attachments or links in email. Reporters use email and online sources all the time. It’s part of their daily business.

What can news and other organizations do to protect themselves?

By now it should be clear that relying only on endpoint security in a standard configuration is not enough to stop determined attackers with enough resources and skills. We need additional controls and monitoring to defend against them. Remember, they can try a thousand times and need to be successful only once. In defense we need to be successful every time. Watching who accesses data and from where, monitoring network traffic, and being suspicious about unusual activities (who exactly in your network is supposed to upload gigabytes of data to somewhere on the Internet?) are key to detecting and blocking such attacks. A security information and event management (SIEM) solution can be helpful there, especially if your human resources for monitoring are limited.

How many publications outside the United States have been victims of similar attacks? It’s very likely publications around the globe are being attacked or “pwned” as I’m writing this. You may want to check for anything unusual and protect against attacks that could hit you as well.

Jan 31 2013

What is Information Architecture?

I want to continue to build on the theme of Information Architecture which is being talked about a great deal at the Open Group Conference in Newport Beach. In my post, "A Quick Look At The Importance Of Information Architecture" I highlight the value of Information Architecture and put it into the  context of Enterprise Architecture. 

In this post I want to define it and continue to build on that context setting. The area of information architecture is still a bit fuzzy on what it really is. I think the confusion starts with the name. Is this topic called "Information Architecture" or "Data Architecture"? Once you decide on a term you like, typically off to Google you go for a definition on wikipedia or some other site(s) that will contain variety of different insights into the terms.

I have my own definition of what Information Architecture is, and yes, I locked in on what I prefer to call this aspect of Enterprise Architecture. But let's take a step back and look on the web at some definitions to see if there are some definitions that resonate.

 

Data Architecture

  • TOGAF Data Architecture - A description of the structure and interaction of the enterprise’s major types and sources of data, logical data assets, physical data assets and data management resources
  • Wikipedia - Data architecture in Information Technology is composed of models, policies, rules or standards that govern which data is collected, and how it is stored, arranged, integrated, and put to use in data systems and in organizations. A Data Architecture is often the design of data for use in defining the target state and the subsequent planning needed to achieve the target state. It is usually one of several architecture domains that form the pillars of an enterprise architecture or solution architecture.

Information Architecture

  • EIM Institute - Information Architecture is the function of defining and using master blueprints for semantic and physical integration of enterprise data assets (e.g., enterprise data model, enterprise data flows). These master blueprints provide a clear definition of how the data is structured, collected, shared, maintained, and stored from both the IT and business community perspectives.
  • Wikipedia - Information architecture (IA) is the art and science of organizing and labelling data including: websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability.[1] It is an emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing together principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.[2][page needed] Typically it involves a model or concept of information which is used and applied to activities that require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development.
  • Web Monkey - Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together. It’s more important than you might think, and John Shiple, aka Squishy, tells you why.

 

Looking at these and it is really two ends of the extreme. So which one is right? 

Neither in my opinion, but some are close and I don't think these definitions do the space justice. I also want to be clear that information architecture is a lot like business architecture a few years ago. Not well defined, loose methods, models and a real lack of definition around roles. 

The definitions around data architecture seems loser to enterprise architecture, however, it is a very technical definition. One of which I am not a believer in personally. Just like with all aspects of architecture there is abstraction, I believe these definitions are correct but at a lower level of abstraction.

As you read the definitions of information architecture from most sites it is more centered around User eXperience (UX) rather than what EA's think of it. The outlier is the Enterprise Information Management (EIM) Institute, which has a definition that is closer to what I think the definition is. 

I like the marriage of the EIM Institute + TOGAF (and some parts of the Wikipedia definition). 

So here is the definition I land on:

Information Architecture is an aspect of enterprise architecture that enables an information strategy or business solution through the definition of the company's business information assets, their sources, structure, classification and associations that will prescribe the required application architecture and technical capabilities.

 

The core of this definition is switching from starting with the application architecture (and sometimes even the technology architecture) but rather to focus first on business architecture that will lead to information architecture and then the other aspects. Once you define the IA aspects your architecture will more reliably align to the business value realization goals. 

This is enabled by many different methods, models and tools. I will talk more about them in a separate post. 

Jan 31 2013

Chinese hacking of US media becoming a “widespread phenomenon”

Computer systems operated by The Wall Street Journal have been penetrated by Chinese hackers for the apparent purpose of monitoring the publication's coverage of China, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The acknowledgement came in a short article published less than 24 hours after The New York Times reported a similar breach. According to the earlier report, the NYT network had been rooted for four months by hackers who were intent on gathering intelligence about a series of stories related to the family of China’s prime minister. The report cited unnamed sources as saying Bloomberg News was also targeted by Chinese hackers after the news organization published an article in June about the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping. Xi has since become China's general secretary of the Communist Party and is expected to become president in March.

The NYT went on to say that media outlets have been targeted since 2008, and today's WSJ article characterized the hacking campaign as extensive.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Jan 31 2013

Free TOGAF 9 Exam Simulator and Sample Questions

Manuel Di Toma has created a great resource for Enterprise Architects looking for TOGAF 9 certification. He built a set of TOGAF 9 simulation tests to help prepare you for the big test. 

Manuel ensures that all the resources in this portal are verified by TOGAF® 9 certified Architects. But please note, this website was designed and implemented by the Manuel; The Open Group is not directly involved in this initiative.

You can find the resources here: http://theopenarch.com 

In Manuel's words he describes why he created the site:

When I was studying for my TOGAF 9 certification exam, I realised that there wasn’t any FREE website offering a reliable service to try and test your TOGAF 9 knowledge and GET PREPARED FOR THE TOGAF 9 EXAMINATION. For this reason I decided to build a simple test engine using a free PHP solution called Limesurvey to enable the online testing capability, then on top of it, I built a portal. But I decided not to stop there and extend the purpose of the Portal. The Objective of this portal is to spread Enterprise Architecture Best Practice and offer FREE Enteprise Architecture Resources to other Fellow Enterprise Architect

Other helpful resources include: