Cylance Review: Bag of Scorpions, Batman

Saw a great show last night at Hoyts Broadway (Sydney), courtesy of an invitation to Batman v Superman and a live malware demonstration from AI Security platform Cylance. The forces of good and evil battled it out on the big screen in spectacular fashion.  And then they played us a movie.

I’d been sold on the idea of an AI security platform. Smart, active defence, rather than ‘passive’ fencing. Not being an expert I asked for a plus one, and brought my 14yo nephew.

On the drive in, Josh updated me on his current COD sniper kill count (40,000), the prize money available for online trick shot competitions (!), and hacker collective Lizard Squad’s abilities and notable successes. Frankly I couldn’t have had a better prep session.

Running the technical demonstration was APAC Cylance Director of Pre-Sales Engineering Greg Singh. Greg had downloaded and corralled a bunch of malware files from a third party security supplier-to-industry (recent malware, last 48 hours or less).

They had 20 executable files quarantined in a folder, and different machines each running different malware / antivirus suites.

We (the audience) got to pick the systems. We chose Sophos, Trend, Symantec and of course Cylance. I’ll call them A, B, C and Cylance below (in no particular order).

One by one we went into the folder through dos commands and told each machine to open the collection of files (same collection, same malware, different machines.)  My nephew was quietly delighted at the idea of deliberately thrashing these systems. Privately so was I.

Holy shit.

The first machine running system A immediately spotted that there was malware lurking there; before even opening the files, which is nice.

After we told it to open the folder’s contents, it declined a few, and opened most of them; doing a pretty good job of spotting issues and sequestering, but more than a few got past, and a few of them executed. The system became unstable after a couple of minutes.

B was much the same story, but the system screened out fewer files and became uncooperative faster.

The C system was funny/not funny (especially if you’re running that particular system at home). It fell over itself to open damn near everything, then hit the floor faster than what Mike Tyson did to Ricky Spain. From what I understand, it’s loved ones have been notified.

The Cylance machine simply refused to open any of the malware files. Not a single one.

And it did it’s work in about 8-12 seconds.

The Cylance system works like this. They’ve synthesised an algorithm that understands what it’s looking at. Proper threat assessment using judgment; rather than ‘here’s a recent list of what you can and can’t trust’.

Greg tells us to imagine triggering a bomb, then trying to contain the blast. (Apparently this is how most malware/ anti-virus systems work, after you’ve opened something you shouldn’t.) I prefer to think of tipping out a known bag of scorpions, then trying to stuff them all back in again. But bombs are abstract, and scorpions are creepy, fast and stingy. And Cylance simply won’t open the bag.

The systems’ understanding uses a weighted score ranging between +1 and -1. A file ranked -1 will give your computer cholera, steal your money, cancel your gym membership, fire off a series of sexist emails to your boss, make your cat ill and turn the milk sour in the fridge. (+1 is, presumably, a healing missive from Jesus.)

Built off a staggering amount of data – the past 25 years of threat history – the algorithm is the endpoint of the analysis, rather than a live system.

While not true AI, it’s a novel approach to security and threat management. It doesn’t need to be online to update itself every other day (updates come every 6 months), which means it’s ideal for machines that don’t need to, can’t, or shouldn’t be net live 24/7.

The algo itself is protected, but that’s neither here nor there:  ‘there really isn’t anything to be found from reversing our process.  Basically we map patterns of badness, so the only way to avoid this is to stop being bad.’ – Greg Singh.

I went for the demo but stayed for the movie, and despite what you’ve heard (Spoilers: Batman kicks Superman’s ass) the movie was better than expected. And Cylance did things I can’t argue with.

I’m not technically equipped to tell you why. But I brought my nephew because the AI model is the one he’ll be using when he graduates. He loved it. I thought it was cool, and cannot wait to see the next iteration of this kind of approach.

Disclosure: They gave us nachos, butter chicken and, on the way out, a Batman Bobblehead. I took a Superman for my other nephew who didn’t get to go.

Mike Woodcock March 2016


Why Journalism Matters.

“The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.” – Paul Wallbank,  Towards the post journalist media world

Why Journalism Matters.

I read this last night around 1am. Made me angry, the ways things will at 1am.
I lay awake wondering why I was angry. I think it’s because that statement feels like a surrender, and that’s so not what journalism is about.

Sometimes journalists get disheartened. They have right to. I was speaking with another, younger journalist friend a couple of days back. She was proper angry. A publisher had failed to have her back on a story – a situation I’m sure most every journalist has come across.

Let me say this: I’m not a journalist. I’m a journalist fanboy. I love proper journalism. Long-form articles, in-depth career pieces, old 40’s and 50’s and 60’s sports journalism .
I hate Rupert Murdoch, almost by reflex; but I took a job at News Ltd on the Australian in part because his journalists once went to jail rather than reveal a source.

I‘m very proud to have also worked at MediaConnect, because I got to play up close with journos. Fascinating beasts that you are.

Yes. I’m a journalism fan. I love Mark Twain, he makes me laugh out loud on public transport – as does PJ O’Rourke, whose writing I once defended in a barfight with a largish former bush-rugby-reporting/playing journalist whose name escapes me (but his size doesn’t).

I’m a fan of journalism. Woodward & Bernstein. David Frost. And closer to home, as a kid I loved watching Jana Wendt stun politicians with simple directness; and then pin them to the table like a moth collector with an odd specimen – laid out, there for the study, shorn of pretence. Or George Negus, one on one with the Iron Lady. Magic, thrilling stuff.

And we need that now, more than ever. We need journalists. We need that moral courage. That willingness to tell the truth to power, without fear or favour.

We especially need it in the face of the swathe of pretend, placating, placebo politicians we’re saddled with. (Yes Mr Turnbull, I’m looking at you.) There is an argument that part of the reason Donald Trump is so popular, is simply because of a vacuum of real analysis, in front of a body politic that’s been trained to ignore informed commentary in favour of opinion. To rely on feelings, instead of analysis.

And we need it to ward off the avalanche of spun, filtered, finely minced, extruded paste, news-like substance corporates like to call content marketing. Clicks are all well and good, but they tell you nothing about the mind that clicked.

Yes, one good piece of content marketing can change a campaign metric. But one good piece of journalism can change hearts, can change minds, can even change the world.

So we need journalism. We need it back. We need all of you to buck up. We need publishers to stand behind journalists, because when they do that they are standing up for their readers.

But most of all we need good journalism because without it, without speaking truth to power, without that moral courage to call a spade in detail, the emperor goes naked, and we will all follow like lambs.

Perfect is A Pain in the Ass

I love boxing coaching. It’s the most fun I can have standing up. The rewards you get from working with people trying to learn something and improve themselves are worth every moment. The kids are great, and they keep me on my toes – right now I have kids that ‘drift’, kids that are super focussed, ones that work and ones that won’t – and everything between.

My favourite though is the breakthroughs. The ones that make a leap – they get a jab and counter down pat; or you push them to spar a shade above their ‘level’ & they surprise you with how well they cope.

I’ve been looking for the reasons for these leaps – the ones where you find yourself ahead of your own expectations (or other people’s). I think the key to it is this: I make it achievable. The thing I regularly ask my class to do? Their best. Not their ‘perfect’ – but their best. This is an important distinction. Because perfect is a pain in the ass.

Perfect is a Pain in the Ass.

It is when you’re training people.  I can’t do perfect. I try; but I can’t ask people who are learning boxing . . . or anything else . . . to do perfect. It gets in the way of progress. So we push for better or best – your better, your best. Not mine – and not perfect.

I know a few people: boxers, professionals, friends and even family, who impose very high standards on themselves. Standards that are sometimes too high – and when they fall short, they get downcast and beat themselves up. Then they buck up, promise themselves to do better, and re-set another lofty goal – only to fall, rinse and repeat.  You might know a few folks like that too.

You know what? That’s not growth.  It’s a road to self-doubt. And you need you in your own corner.  You need to know that you did the best you could. That you’ve got your own back, whatever else is going on. In the corner, and in life; if you know you can push for your best, and count on yourself to get it, then win lose or draw that’s a pretty special feeling, and no-one can ever take that from you.

The Push matters, The Perfect doesn’t.

If you’ve ever loved doing something, then you’ve been there. You’ve pushed yourself as hard as you can to be perfect, to do something exactly the way it should be done; because we’ve seen those champions and want to follow their example.  Who wouldn’t want to box like Ali? Who wouldn’t want to give a speech like Obama? And so we push for perfect.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

You know what? It’s the push that matters, much more than the perfect. We want attainable goals here. Because you progress more doing and achieving something the honest best that you can right now. If you do your best, your very best in training, or preparing, your honest best, every time? You’ll be fine.  And you’ll be ready on time too . . . because

Over-analysis causes paralysis.

OK this I’ve seen a bunch of times. Fighters, over-thinking things. Watching and re-watching and thinking about other people’s styles and fights – Marciano, Ali, Tyson, Mayweather.  Analysing everything . . . and overthinking everything. If, on the other hand, you drill your fundamentals, as well as you know how, every time – you’ll be unstoppable.

“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.
After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.
Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
— Bruce Lee

Is Perfect Sustainable?

I have rarely seen a perfect boxing round. Willie Pep maybe (229-11-1), who once won a round of boxing without throwing a punch. (If you like boxing and don’t know who Willie Pep is, then please go here right now. I’ll wait.) Early Mike Tyson – a force of nature, fury personified. Hagler/Hearns, Conn/Louis,  Gatti/Ward and Ali/Frasier all produced some amazing rounds. But these are uncommon moments, made all the more special by their rarity.

The boxing ring is mostly chaos. A lot like life in that respect – you can prep all you want, but you don’t know what’s going to happen when the bell rings. And life laughs at ‘perfect’, every day.

So do your own preparation as best as you can. Make your goals achievable and realistic. Don’t burn time chasing perfect; just be the best you can be. You’ll find if you do that, when the bell goes, you’ll be ready, and you’ll have your own back.

And keep your hands up!

Mike W.

Pick Your Punches – In Life, In the Ring, And In Sales

Couple of months back I had a pretty good set of cracked ribs. No-one to blame really – self-inflicted,  from throwing too many punches. (True story).

It’s hard to injure yourself this way. Usually you need outside help. Mine came in the form of an 85 kilo, six foot former weight and age class champion I was walking around with.

(Sidebar: A ‘walk around’ is not a trip to the corner – it’s a kind of code for a boxing workout; where two fighters will spar, but not try too hard to knock each other’s heads off. This particular guy though, our sessions go like this: ‘Hey you want to have a walk around?” “Sure “ *Bell rings* *We immediately forget the ‘walk around’ rule*)

Anyways. I’d been away a week and didn’t feel like getting busted up tangling, so for three short, 2 minute rounds, I figured the best defence would be a good offence. I threw everything at him but the kitchen sink. For a round and a half.

It’s called being punched out – you throw so much, you’ve nothing left in the tank – or the legs – to mount a solid defence. And so, for the last round and a half, I offered about as much meaningful defence as a punching bag.

Figure I got off pretty light in the end. But what’s the lesson? Pick your shots.

What’s This Got to do with Sales?

I have a pretty credible conversion rate selling. Mostly because I pick my shots. I don’t spin my wheels with people that can’t say yes. And I don’t chase people that don’t need what I have. Instead, I explore the market. I understand my product and what each client might need. I research. I understand. That’s where I spend my time. So by the time I’m in front of a prospect, asking the question – I usually already know the answer.

This matters. I’ve known guys burn themselves out, chasing every business and lead in the world, without proper thought to the likelihood of getting a result.

When you’re new in sales, this is fine – chase everything. You learn lots this way. About people, about closing, about chasing, about lead building, about pitching the right people, and about pitching the wrong ones.

But if you don’t adapt your approach as you learn from this process, then you’ll always be stuck at that entry level. Throwing every punch, but rarely landing. Slowing down. Eventually too tired to take or even notice the shots that will land.

Take Your Time

Be patient. Learn from your clients what works, what doesn’t, what they need, and what they don’t. Strip away the stuff that wastes your time – and your clients’. Learn from your mistakes. Learn to be economical – and you’ll have more time and energy for when it does matter.

There’s a saying in chess – ‘don’t move until you see it’.  When you do move – be decisive. Be accurate – take your time, and throw the punch that lands, make the move that checkmates, and the call that closes.

I think this applies in life as well – remember how impatient you were as a teenager? I know I was – insufferably so. A little more patience with people, with money and career – even with myself – would have gone a long way.

Back to the ring. After a few weeks of healing, and doing many drills to get my range and control right, to parry and pick shots off, I had another walk around – against a much bigger guy this time.

The difference was incredible.  The key was patience, and not just throwing everything just because you can – just throwing what mattered, when it did. I can’t remember when I had so much control – or so much fun.

So take your time, pick your shots – and keep your hands up!

Mike W

The One Guy I Don’t Want To Fight (And Neither Do You)

Watched the fight on the weekend. You know which one.  Most likely you watched it too. I’ve been asked what I think by a couple of folks (because I coach boxing at the local PCYC).  I think a bunch of things (and I’m looking forward to reviewing the tape again, but without the atmosphere of the local club) – mostly though? I think Manny showed up for a fight, while Mayweather showed up for a boxing match. That aside, I’ve been thinking about who I don’t want to fight – or more accurately, the kind of person I don’t want to fight. Or be on the other side of a deal against.

He Trains In the Gym

Sounds obvious. But it isn’t . . .  I’m thinking of one guy in particular here. He keeps to himself in the gym, while he trains. He warms up without breaks. He takes two more rounds at the end of the session with anyone and everyone. And then he warms down, longer than anyone else. It all seems pretty mundane, until you look at everyone else. Everyone else is maybe taking a while to wrap hands while they catch up. Not this guy. Everyone else takes a while to warm up, thinking about this or that. Not this guy. And everyone else finishes a bag session the second the end of round bell goes. Not this guy. See the pattern? he is there to train, and nothing else. That kind of focus gives you edges everywhere.

He Trains in His Head

He practices in his head. He visualises the movements, then practices them – with all the diligence above. Visualising successful techniques makes for a faster fighter, a better executed technique, better response times, reduced hesitancy. If you carry a clearly defined picture in your head of your goal and how to get there, you will be that much more effective.

He’s Training When You’re Not

You take the night off. He doesn’t. You’re finished. He’s not. Every single second of training he does more than me, I’m jealous of. Every time he can’t make it the gym, but I can – I cherish.  But then again I know – I know – if he’s not in the gym, then he’s lying on the floor at home doing extra crunches, or practicing guards and counters while watching GoT. Or maybe he’s a Masterchef guy? but you get the idea.

He Repeats Himself

Repetition is the mother of skill. I have no idea who said that. Bruce Lee said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick, 10,000 times.” and this is spot on. When you drill a punch – or a question, or an answer – again and again, the delivery becomes perfect. You can win a boxing match with just a jab – ask Mayweather – but it better be a damn good one. How do you make it good enough to win? Practice. Again and again and again.

He Trains Without Even Knowing It

Every fighter I’ve ever spoken to has done this at some point. They are walking down a hallway at home, or out on the street. And then they’re not walking. They are turning a foot just so, or rotating a shoulder, or absently mentally parrying a punch, countering, and then they’ll stop dead. And practice the movement a couple of times, just small hand movements, but perfecting it – and move on. All without really noticing that it’s just happened.

On some level they know it happened, of course –  but the brain and the body aren’t at home or on the street, they’re in the gym for 5 or 10 seconds – body and soul.  And I’ll tell you a secret – this is easy because it’s not training. It’s a fascination, and a desire to do the best you can.

I’ve been thinking of one guy in particular while I write this. He’s not the youngest fighter in our gym. Or the fastest. Or the hardest hitter. But every fighter I’ve spoken to that’s been in the ring with him says more or less the same thing: You can’t switch off with this guy. It’s like fighting six guys.

I think that’s something to aim  for, professionally and personally. To be the kind of person that the other guy can’t afford to switch off on. To be the kind of parent your kids will engage with. To be the kind of communicator that is engaging. And to be the kind of sparring partner you can’t switch off on.

It’s not easy, and it takes time – but if you work at it every day – then you’ll be that guy – the one no one wants to fight.

And keep your hands up!

Mike W

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Content Marketing 101

Content marketing is everywhere. Everywhere. Business owners are fairly certain they need it, SEO firms are absolutely certain you need it, and journalists increasingly pushed for time and engagement measured in clicks both dread and value it.  In order to get a better handle on content marketing, I spoke to actual journalists and editors across a range of respected Australian titles for their views.

There’s pros and cons, as in anything; but first things first – what the heck is it? Content marketing, also called ‘native advertising’, is this: instead of a journalist writing a story, a company writes an article (or outsources to a marketing person or, ideally, a freelance journalist) and pays to have it placed in the outlet of choice – often online.

Once upon a time, this kind of content was pointed straight at convincing or persuading you of something, was called advertorial, and was almost always labelled as such. But the internet changed all that forever.

With a sizable chunk of the planet now devouring online content, new kinds of content and articles have become more commonplace and even acceptable. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of content marketing in all its’ glory . . .

The Good:

1. Content is generated.

The Bottomless Online Content Pit™ is (momentarily) satiated.  Between July 2000 June and 2014, internet users went from around 400 million people, to an estimated 3 billion. (source here & here). That’s a lot of eyeballs to keep happy.

2. The Boss is Happy.

Quotes and viewpoints that might not have been included in an independently generated article are put forth. The Marketer looks like a hero – especially because much of this content ends up online (even if it starts in print.) This is useful for a marketer because it’s easy to measure clicks and views – and so articulate a success story for any given campaign.

3. The Public is Informed.

There is a school of thought that says the best person to review a game, explore an investment opportunity, or explain a car model, is the maker of that game, opportunity or car. In one sense they’re right – a manufacturer will know what to highlight, what to explain in detail and so on.  When the focus of content marketing is on the content part, a balanced piece might be your best source on that topic. Sadly, this is not always the case, because . . .

The Bad:

1. Pointless content is generated

They can’t all be winners can they? We’ve all read one. A piece of content marketing that is so clearly biased or poorly crafted it hurts your retinas.  At best, these articles sink forever into the Bottomless Online Content Pit ™. Sometimes though, they will drown out actual, balanced pieces looking at the same issue. At worst? They damage the brand they’re looking to enhance. Which means . . .

2. The Boss is Unhappy

From a CEO perspective, the content of any article that speaks to your industry helps create the environment in which your product sells. Good, clear content develops an educated informed market. Simplistic, biased content develops a mistrustful one. (Go and ask your sales department which environment they would prefer to sell into.) Setting all that aside for a moment, if your article generates clicks but not a measurable improvement in bottom line – what was the point?  Because if you’re not careful . . .

3. The Public is Misinformed.

Here is where it all usually falls in a grim heap. The “content” part of content marketing is overlooked in favour of the “marketing” part. What you’re left with is often at best a puff piece – all shiny cheeriness with no substance; and at worst just raw, unlabelled advertorial.  I asked Lia Timson (Fairfax News’ Foreign News Editor) what one thing she wished marketers and business owners knew about content marketing. Her short answer? “That readers aren’t stupid.”

Which brings us to . . .

The Ugly.

Here’s a few more choice quotes from some of Australia’s best journalists and editors.

“Content marketing is deceiving. Unlike advertising and advertorial, it isn’t declared. Thankfully, most of the time, discerning readers can tell when something sounds like it’s favouring an interested party. Marketers would be better off not insulting the intelligence of people they most wish to convince.”  – LT

“Good content marketing should read like journalism. It should BE journalism. But clients get confused and upset when it doesn’t read like a direct advertising piece. “ – CP

“I wish marketers realised that any piece of writing that has been through multiple levels of approval processes is always going to feel pretty dull and lifeless at the end of that process. You need a distinctive voice if anyone is going to pay attention.” – AK

“It needs to be informative and not preachy or salesy.” – AC

There’s a couple more quotes, but the idea is always the same. When commercial concerns meet content, without strong oversight the content suffers.

The takeaway here is that content marketing can be much, much trickier than it appears. Find the right content, and the right outlet and audience, and you may just have uncovered a valuable opportunity to grow market share and develop an audience.

Get it wrong, and the best outcome is a wasted opportunity. Either way, content marketing is here to stay. Do your research, keep it balanced, think about hiring a professional (and let them do their job without interference!) and above all, keep your hands up 🙂

Mike W

6 Ways Sales is Just Like Boxing

I had some valuable feedback on yesterday’s post on coaching (thank you everyone!) One person in particular – a fellow salesperson and pugilist of similar vintage – pointed out that there quite a few parallels between boxing and sales in general. Now sales is not boxing and boxing is not sales. But they do share a few things in common, and for anyone looking at jumping into either, here’s a few handy tips that might keep you from getting too bruised up – whichever you’re a fan of.


Let’s get this one right out of the way first. If you stick at any pursuit long enough, there will be setbacks.  And then there will be the great, big, gravity-defying, come-out-of-nowhere right hands that rock you right to your socks.  Setbacks are like jabs – easy to absorb, but enough of them can sting – like a solid week or even month of no or small deals. They happen.

I’m talking about the client that pulls a whole campaign an hour out from first deadline. The quarterly target-killers.

What do you do now? How do you respond? Rocky said it best. (Balboa, not Marciano.) “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” That’s all any of us can do – keep moving ahead. There’s another client, another deadline waiting down the track. If you face them on your feet, you’ll have a much better chance of winning next time. Because. . .


Here’s my favourite mistake: Burn all your energy early, and don’t leave enough for the back end. Which leaves little left to do much anything else, except cover and counter – survival stuff. Now if I notice I’m doing that, and stay mindful that there’s another round coming, I can conserve my energy, breathe better, move better, and wait.  How does this translate into sales? Don’t call your clients every single day to chase. Sometimes you have to give the deal time to breathe too.  And that way you have more time to expand out your focus, and look for other opportunities, other ways through, after all . . .


Jabs are awesome. Nice, long punches, keeping everything away from you and ‘over there’ – but it’s just one tool. And if I rely on that too much, then 1. Everything else gets worse and 2. It stops working.  Same in sales. I’ve seen a lot of salespeople rely on just one punch, just one tool, to get the job done. It might be pricing (usually is) might be value adds, it might be volumes – whatever it is, make sure it’s the right punch for the moment. Often people tend to favour whatever worked best last deal. This can be rewarding, but be mindful – and vary your punches. The best way to do that?


Practice makes perfect. But I’ll settle for better. If I can improve my guard 10%, my lead hand 10%, my speed 10% by practice, it’s time well spent. Because it’s an accumulation of skills, sharpened by practice that makes all the difference. Likewise in sales. In my time at News Ltd our team came together often to practice public forum speaking, pitching, listening and planning. Team leaders and management included. Even the quarterly & annual sales awards process was a practice pitch – making a documented, competitive case for your nomination.  The outcome of all this practice? Our business unit was the only over-performing unit, companywide.  Practice makes perfect (but I’ll settle for better.) And after all that . . .


I’ve seen a couple of guys survive on talent. Just talent – no practice, no detail, just talent. God bless them. But I’ve never seen a champion do that. Small things matter – but none more than time in the gym. If you keep showing up you will succeed. If you are naturally talented, but that’s all you have, then sooner or later the guy that kept showing up is going to kick your ass.  Now image if you were talented AND kept showing up . . . because that’s how talented becomes professional, and professional becomes Muhammed Ali, Aaron Pryor, Manny Pacquaio, Cameron Glass, Kaye Scott.  Same in sales. The very best I’ve ever seen have all had 2 things in common: 1 Natural talent 2. Sweat.  One without the other works for a while. The sweat will even go further than the talent, because willing beats able in the long run. But the 2 together are unbeatable. Especially if . . .


Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Both are valuable. I’m going to hand over to Alastair Allars, because he says it better than I will. “I believe that you learn more from the occasional defeat than you ever will from a win (be it a fight or be it a sale). When you win you go away and celebrate and think how well you did to win the fight or the deal, however if you lose, you spend time analysing what went wrong and what you should do better next time so that you don’t lose again.

Amen Al.

Sales is not boxing and boxing is not sales. The two share a few things in common, and there’s enough common ground to look at the two and take away some valuable lessons there.  My favourites? Sweat it out, try and learn something, and above all else, keep your hands up 🙂


Mike W