Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 7, 2005

Combining Physical and Information Security

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:11 pm

What do you do if you’re a highly educated, computer-literate former locksmith? You start a consulting firm of course — on the integration of physical security with computer/information security. 4A International is the new company, just launched this week by Steve Hunt.

You might think that, well, locksmithing and computer security might be the same in theory (letting the right people in and keeping the wrong people out), but totally different in practice. But they are actually closely related, especially for large organizations. You can’t protect your information unless you can physically protect your computers, and if you have something like an electronic card-key system to let, say, only your current employees into the building, then you can’t protect your building unless you protect your computers.

The “4A” in the name represents the “4 A’s” of security: authentication, authorization, administration, and audit. That is, making sure you are who you say your are, given you as much access as your are supposed to have and no more, the ability to make changes (adding and deleting people’s access is easier with electronic keys than metal “master” keys), and keeping track of what happened to make sure only the correct access occurred.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:56 pm

Well, not quite, but closer than anyone else has ever gotten. Scientists at the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) say they have drilled almost all the way through the earth’s crust (the hard part) and are about the break through to the mantle (the soft — liquid? — part). This area where it changes is called the Mohorovicic discontinuity, known to its close friends as the “Moho.” Details here.

Pfizer Withdraws Painkiller Bextra

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 pm

Pfizer has withdrawn the COX-2 inhibitor Bextra off the market under FDA pressure. They are also putting a “black box” warning on their older drug Celebrex, which is now the only COX-2 inhibitor left on the U.S. market, since Merck withdrew Vioxx last year under similar pressure.

The FDA is also requiring new warnings on nonspecific COX-1/2 inhibitors, more commonly known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) — the most common ones being Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) and Naproxen (Aleve, etc.). The public FDA statement is here.

I have my doubts that this is the right decision — that is, I’m sure all these drugs have risks, like all drugs do, but I’m not sure the risks are so severe as to justify taking them off the market completely, instead of just warning doctors to be careful to whom they prescribe them, and patients to watch for side effects. Of course, I can’t actually find out whether my doubts are valid, because the research on which these decisions are based appears not to have been published so far. (If anyone knows where I can find it, let me know!)

The fact that the information is not yet public is part of the problem. It appears that the FDA would rather have you suffer indescribable pain and be bedridden with arthritis (for example), than have you run a slight risk of a heart attack. (A risk which you might be able to mitigate with exercise, that you can’t get without athritis medicine.) Or to put it a different way, they’d rather you die of a bleeding ulcer from taking too much aspirin or ibuprofen, than die of a heart attack from taking Bextra or Vioxx. I don’t doubt that many patients, evaluating the risk-benefit trade-off with their doctors, would make the same decision. But I also don’t doubt that many would make the opposite decision, and the FDA seems to fear that — even though it’s the patients, not the FDA, who have to live with the consequences of whatever decision is made. I don’t know what the folks at the FDA actually believe, but they seem to act as if they believe that doctors and patients are too stupid to make their own decisions — and they certainly act like they believe they are able to make decisions for everybody. Not only that, but the right decision is the same one for every single patient in the country!

It is highly ironic that in this country, you have the right to make a “living will” guaranteeing yourself certain (100% chance of) death by dehydration if your health deteriorates, but if you have severe arthritis, you don’t have the right to take a 1.5% chance of death by heart attack by taking a medicine that makes you comfortable enough to get out of bed and live a somewhat normal life.

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