Commentary Advanced Threats
Doing Tech Evangelism Right
Kaspersky Lab's public request for help on an unsolved mystery surrounding Duqu serves as a case study about the power of technology evangelism
Something very interesting just happened in the world of security that relates to how tech evangelism works, and it underscores the importance of communication between technical and marketing experts.
Kaspersky Lab released research into Duqu (a supposed Stuxnet variant) at CanSecWest. Its claim is that a part of Duqu was written with a programming language not seen before -- or, as Kaspersky says, that it at least can't identify. On Wednesday, it asked for help in this mystery.
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While interesting technologically, what could it be used for? Reliability? Task-specific needs? And interesting operationally: Who would want to learn to code in yet another language? Is this to avoid detection by changing things up for the antiviruses?
If you work to weaponize a Trojan horse, then the possibilities of what this could be used for are endless.
The important aspect of this is that Kaspersky presents a mystery, makes it a geek puzzle that techies love, and engages with the community.
"Compiled in a programming language we haven't seen before," according to Kaspersky researchers.
The comments section in its short research blog on the subject is going crazy with guesses. The community is fully engaged over this relatively small detail -- and Kaspersky is seen as a leader in innovation and bleeding-edge threat detection "from the trenches."
Kaspersky does the research, which is interesting and done well. It releases it to the press. It engages with the community. And it makes it engaging.
The release has the "from the trenches" feel, which is important. Most techies crave the feeling of being involved; the chasm between the bits and bytes and any actual "action" is quite impressive. This gives them an option to be on the front lines, and they would be.
Further, Kaspersky offers to share bits of code, which makes it benevolent, and to give people a potential for much more involvement and engagement as it will look at things themselves, all under the guidance of Kaspersky.
Some side effects:
1. Kaspersky may locate potential, strong employees through this challenge.
2. Kaspersky manufactured a "wave" of what people will speak of for the next one to three weeks in the security world.
3. Kaspersky builds credibility for information sharing -- people will ask it for data, and it will get data in return.
4. Kaspersky will be invited to speak on this at every conference this coming year.
5. Kaspersky will rerelease this news for mainstream media and make The New York Times.
I bet this started as a coffee break conversation, which one of Kaspersky's press-savvy people heard. It emphasizes how information flow between R&D and marketing can be utilized.
As a side bet, this doesn't necessarily have to have technological significance. Maybe a programmer was bored or just got out of studying a compilers course at a university.
This is a case study to be replicated.
I've written on the subject of press engagement and tech evangelism before, in the Dark Reading security PR series of blogs.
Gadi Evron is an independent security strategist based in Israel. Special to Dark Reading.