Channel Surfing with The VAR Guy

The VAR Guy's editor talks about cybersecurity and the presidential election, Silicon Valley's most politically vocal executives and Facebook's heroic stand against the demon clickbait.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

August 5, 2016

4 Min Read
Channel Surfing with The VAR Guy

Happy Friday, dear readers. I don’t know about y’all, but this weekend can’t come fast enough for me. After a whirlwind three days at CompTIA’s ChannelCon in Hollywood, Fla., this week, my flight back home was delayed five hours. Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have mattered. But now that I’m old and can’t hang anymore, I can’t wait to spend this weekend pulling a Peter Gibbons from Office Space and doing absolutely nothing.

But before I can head off into that lazy and glorious sunset, I owe you a commentary on the tech news this week that caught my attention. Let’s get started, because I can hear my bed calling my name.

Black Hat held its annual conference in Las Vegas this week (Allison Francis brought us the key takeaways yesterday), and at ChannelCon, cybersecurity was a topic on everyone’s radar. With good reason, it seems. Security firm Malwarebytes released the results of a survey that showed nearly 80 percent of U.S. businesses suffered some sort of cyberattack in the last year, with 47 percent reporting a ransomware attack. I knew the number was high, but I was still surprised at exactly how high.

But maybe I shouldn’t have been. At ChannelCon, the overriding sentiment was that companies should start shifting their strategies from how to prevent cyberattacks and instead start figuring out how to handle them when they happen, because they’re inevitable. One attendee even told me some cybersecurity sales teams are advising prospects that choose not to buy their service to instead add a budget line for Ransom. If that seems heavy-handed, you might consider just carrying a copy of that Malwarebytes study with you. Those numbers should scare any business-owner out of the kind of self-delusion that perpetuates the It won’t happen to me line of thought.

The Obama administration is apparently wiser to the cyberthreat level than I am, and they’re worried about the risk hackers pose to this year’s presidential election. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said there’s talk around classifying the electronic ballet-casting system as “critical infrastructure,” similar to the power grid or financial sector. I’m not saying this isn’t a good idea, but you have to wonder if this is at least in part a result of Donald Trump’s preemptive claim that election rigging will be to blame if he loses in November.

HPE CEO Meg Whitman might also (happily) carry some of that blame. The former Republican candidate for California state governor and supporter of such Republican presidential contenders as Chris Christie and Mitt Romney issued a statement on Tuesday that she would cross party lines in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“To vote Republican out of party loyalty alone would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division,” Whitman said in a statement. “Donald Trump’s demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character.”

I’m so curious about which other high-profile members of the Silicon Valley ruling class will weigh in on Trump versus Hillary in the months to come. Last month, if you’ll recall, around 145 self-described “inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, researchers, and business leaders working in the technology sector” signed an open letter denouncing Trump. “We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation.” There were some big names on that letter, including Box CEO Aaron Levie, Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, among others.

Then there’s Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor and PayPal cofounder who’s made headlines this year for his secret funding of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker in an effort to put the media outlet out of business in revenge for one of its blogs outing him as homosexual in 2007. Thiel gave a speech at the Republican National Convention touting Trump as the only one in the race being honest about America’s economic decline. “I’m not a politician,” said Thiel. “But neither is Donald Trump. He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.”

I’m just ready for the election to be over so I can stop seeing people’s vitriolic political posts and go back to watching videos of cats, the way Facebook should be.

Speaking of Facebook, the social media company has come out with a plan to punish “clickbait” headlines with its ranking algorithm. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president for product management for the news feed, gave examples like “The Dog Barked at the Deliveryman and His Reaction Was Priceless,” or “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions and Saw THIS … I Was SHOCKED!” I admit that I’ve fallen for these more often than I’m proud of, and rarely am I, in fact, shocked. As a journalist, I despise clickbait as being a cheap trick of lazy writers. As a reader, I hate it for invariably making me feel gullible. So props to Facebook for this move.

That’s it from the editor’s desk this week. I hope you have a great summer weekend full of pool parties and patio drinking. As for me, I’m going to sleep until Monday. 

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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