Are banks training their customers to be Phished?

When booking travel for our second trip to Europe this year,  the badly tuned Falcon Fraud Manager triggered for both of our payment cards again. It blocked Isabelle’s card and sent out an alert for mine. This itself is bad enough, but how they both banks are then verifying the transaction seems like a recipe for setting up their customers to be phished via the phone.

About 12 hours or so after booking travel I received a voice mail saying they had detected a potentially fraudulent transaction on my credit card, and it asked me to call back the number 1-888-918-7313.

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RFC 5408 on IBE Architecture Published

RFC 5408 which describes a Security Architecture for Identity-Based Encryption. It includes protocols for key requests and public parameter requests as well as some basic building blocks for federation. The system described is similar to what Voltage uses for their IBE based encryption solutions. If you are interested in how Identity-Based Encrpytion systems scale in practice and don’t mind reading RFCs, it is a worthwhile read.

Thanks to my co-authors Mark Schertler and Luther Martin. Specifically Luther deserves the majority of the credit for moving this through the process over the past two (or more?) years. Also thanks to Terence Spies at Voltage, as well as Eric Rescorla, Tim Polk and Blake Ramsdell at the IETF for their support.

Venture Capital Decline

When Morgenthaler raised their last fund I wrote that it looks like Venture Capital is ready for a shake-out. If anything the Q4 numbers from the NVCA/Venture Economics confirm this trend. Below the graph for Venture Funds closed for each quarter over the past 3 years.

Only 43 venture funds where closed in Q4, and the total capital raised was $3.3 billion. This is down from 84 funds raising $11.6 billion a in Q4 of 2007. This brings venture fund raising back to the levels we saw right after the crash of 2000. I would expect to see a further decline for all of the next year in both number of funds as well as total capital. What this means for the venture industry is that if you have fully invested your old fund, and not yet raised a new fund (or at least had an initial closing), you may be in a very difficult situation. Howeve if you just raised a fund, you can expect less competition (and thus hopefully better returns) in the next few years.

Morgenthaler Announces Closing of 9th Fund

Morgenthaler Ventures (where I am currently an EIR) announced today that they closed their ninth fund. In a normal market, this would have been business as usual and not be particularly newsworthy. However the current financial markets are anything but normal.

According to the NVCA release, the number of venture funds closed over the last quarters is:

    1Q'07           83
    2Q'07           83
    3Q'07           78
    4Q'07           85
    1Q'08           70
    2Q'08           76
    3Q'08           55

In 3Q of this year we saw a steep drop. However the impact of the current liquidity crisis and the resulting stock market decline didn’t become fully apparent until October. If I would have to bet, I would expect 4Q to look a lot worse. Venture Beat recently wrote about this and concluded that essentially what we are seeing, is a shakeout in the VC industry. While I haven’t seen numbers yet that conclusively demonstrate this, it intuitively makes sense. Firms that were burnt badly in the post-bubble of 2000-2003, now have fully invested their funds and realize that in the current financial climate they can’t raise additional capital. One would expect new entrants in the Venture Capital space to be the most vulnerable. A firm like Morgenthaler with almost 40 years of track record and an established network of LP’s is naturally in a much better position.

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And one more demo…

OpenFlow Demo at the GEC3
OpenFlow Demo at the GEC3

We just finished the OpenFlow Demo at the GENI Engineering Conference, and it was amazing. We showed our new OpenFlow protocol running on switches from Cisco, Juniper, HP and NEC. Our experimental network stretched half way around the globe from Stanford to Tokyo via New York. It used fibers from  Internet2, CalRen and JGN2plus.

Over this network we showed how we can move around a running game server from one physical host to another without the game even getting interrupted. We demonstrated how you can route a network connection with a simple drag and drop interface (e.g. a TCP flow inside Stanford going via Tokyo and Houston). We even sent a running game server to Tokyo from Stanford, without losing the connection.

Press coverage of the demo included articles English, Japanese, Swedish and Spanish. The OpenFlow web site recieved a few thousand hits, with visitors from every major company in the networking space. All this was made possible by about 40 people from Stanford, Internet2, Cisco, Juniper, HP and NEC had been working on this for months.

As a result of this, OpenFlow is building momentum. NEC announced during the conference support for OpenFlow in their product, and more announcements will follow. By mid next year we are hoping to have pilot deployments at 6-10 universities, and I would hope we will see commercial deployments in that time frame as well. All in all a huge step forward for OpenFlow.

Best Paper Award for Neda, Yashar, McKeown et. al

Congratulations to Neda, Yashar, Monia, Nick and Geoff for their best paper award at the Internet Measurement Conference. Their paper Experimental Study of Router Buffer Sizing tests out recent results on  buffer requirements of high-speed routers that serve highly aggregated traffic. Amongst other things it verifies the C/sqrt(n) result from my thesis as well as my former office mate Yashar Ganjali’s work on very small buffers and find that they hold well.

It is great to see this work getting recognized, but what is even more encouraging is that two router vendors privately confirmed to me that the next generation of some of their products will have substantially smaller buffers. This not only reduces power consumption, but also means that we are less likely to see latency spike whenever peering points or core links are congested.

OpenFlow

The project that currently takes up the majority of my time at Stanford is OpenFlow. OpenFlow is a new protocol that we specified and that vendors are now adding to their routers and switches. What OpenF

low allows you to do is remotely control the behavior of a switch from an controller software that runs on a standard server. This has two major advantages:

  1. You can now write your own control software and try out new switch functionality at full line rates. In the past this has been difficult as all major router and switch vendors lack APIs and are typically closed platforms.
  2. If you use a centralized controller now has a unified view of the network. For some applications such as mobility management, virtualized data canters or security this allows you to do things that previously would have been very difficult or impossible.

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Pacific Coast Trail Runs

This week-end I did my first run that was organized by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, and it will definitely not be my last. They label themselves “Serious Fun”, which is pretty much accurate. The runs are less focused on racing, and more on enjoying the run itself. However the distances of their runs are “serious”. Some events have as the minimum distance marathon or 50k, and some entrants run pretty crazy distances.

I ran the Santa Cruz Mountain run and it was a blast. The 21k course involved wading through the 3 foot deep San Lorenzo River, climbing over fallen logs, waiting at the tracks of the Santa Cruz Railway for it to pass and 2,300 feet elevation gain. I also love their aid stations. Water melon, pumkin pie and Chili at the finish line. If you like running medium and long distances, you should definitely try them out.

SIGCOMM Best Demo Award and other News

Currently the main thing I am working on at Stanford is the OpenFlow Standard. OpenFlow basically allows a software that is running on a commodity PC, to remotely control the flow table and thus the entire routing functionality of a switch (see the excellent white paper). This is a very interesting application for networking, as it allows researchers or start-ups to build new technologies in this space. Think of it as the Facebook API for the networking world. If it takes off, it will lead to a lot of innovation in this space.

Last week we presented a demo of using OpenFlow to migrate game servers in real time (and while people play games on them) across different IP subnets at SIGCOMM 2008. The demo received rave reviews and won the Best Demo Award by a wide margin. I will post more about the Demo and other OpenFlow news on the OpenFlow Blog soon. This week we also held the first OpenFlow tutorial at HOT Interconnects at Stanford (organized by our own John Lockwood this year – great work John!). It was well received and we learned some good lessons how we can improve it in the future.

Congratulations Sundar and Seth!

The 2008 MIT Technology Review list of top innovators under 35 came out today,  Sundar Iyer and Seth Hallem, both fellow Stanford Ph.D. students, made the list this year, and I am very happy for both of them. Sundar has had a profound impact on how buffers for high-speed routers work, and Seth has changed what is considered best practice for code checking. Both have also founded great start-up companies in the process.

Congratulations Sundar and Seth!

Update: As Sundar points out, Stanford CS faculty Andrew Ng and former Ph.D. student Meridith Ringel Morris also made the list. Congratulations here as well!