All These Worlds...

You might not know this, but in addition to being a big security nerd, I am also a HUGE astronomy nerd. Full on. It was 1975, I was ten. Backyard telescopes with my dad, staying up all night to watch meteor showers — even started my own Skaneateles New York Star Trek Fan Club (S.N.Y.S.T.F.C.) for which I created an 8-page entrance examination that was rather poorly received by my best friends Vinnie, Alex and Mikey.

You get the picture.

So imagine my geek-gasm when the journal Nature reported yesterday that not one, but SEVEN Earth-sized planets that could harbor life have been found orbiting a tiny star not too crazy far away. (This is probably pretty binary for you: you already know all about it or you couldn’t care less, so I won’t repeat all the factoids, just the awesome ones.) All seven planets huddle close to their tiny, cool red-dwarf star, Trappist-1 – so close, in fact, that all of them would fit easily within the orbit of Mercury. The innermost orbits in just 1.5 days, the farthest in about 20 days. That makes this neighborhood more like Jupiter and its moons than our own Sol system. But because the star is so small and cool, the temperatures on the fourth, fifth and sixth of these planets should be jusssssst right. For a person standing on one of the planets, it would be dim but warm, with only about 0.5% of the Sol’s brightness… but the sun would be far bigger in the sky, 3x the size we see. The other planets would loom. Multiply. As large as our moon in the sky. Like something out of an ST:TOS matte painting.

Telescopes on Earth and the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit already have the capability to discern the molecular makeup of exoplanetary atmospheres, at least ones as close as this. That means we’ll be able to see signs of water, methane, oxygen, and nitrogen, even from 44 light years away.

So what does this have to do with Verodin and cybersecurity?

Consider this: Scientist found these planets because they were looking for them. Astronomers have discovered, in one of the most frustrating truisms of the universe, that if you don’t look, you don’t find. Strangely, exoplanets, new vaccines, DNA sequences and network defense-stack effectiveness all share this fundamental characteristic, to the chagrin of lethargic or procrastination-prone network engineers everywhere.

The average Fortune 500 company uses security products from over 50 different security vendors. How do they know what’s working and what’s not? Here’s a clue: THEY DON’T. Not until they look – and for that, they need a “space telescope” of their own. Something that looks a little like Verodin.

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