Archive for the 'Humor' Category

Jul 28 2014

“Your cons are just an excuse to drink and party”

Published by under General,Humor,Social Networking

I’m sure we’ve all heard it before when trying to get approval to travel to conventions:  “This is just a boondoggle and you’re going to party the week away!”  Many people believe that the only thing that gets done at security conferences is that a lot of alcohol gets consumed and people get silly at night.  If you go by some of the things we talk about publicly, it’s no surprise that managers might believe that.  While there’s a little bit of truth in accusations, the reality is that there’s so much more going on at conferences that we don’t talk about.  

There’s obviously the talks.  While I personally only attend two or three talks a conference, I know people who spend their entire day running from talk to talk and wish they had time to see more.  There’s a lot of research being revealed at Security Summer Camp, some of which is being seen for the first time there.  It’s valuable to know what’s up and coming, what’s new and interesting and what the trends are in the security field.  The talks given at conferences are one way to find out about all of these.

A second reason to attend conferences is the contacts.  Having connections amongst your peers is easily as important as having knowledge about your field when it comes to a career in security.  There’s too much going on to know everything, there are times when you’re going to need help, so creating and cementing the relationships that will help you over the course of a career are fundamental to your success.  This happens in the hallway track between sessions, this happens during lunches and dinners and this happens even more during the parties at night.  Conferences provide a means to be social with like minded individuals that simply doesn’t exist in many other venues.

And finally there’s the break from the daily routine to de-stress and relax a little.  We need to get away from the daily routine from time to time, it’s a fact of life and why we have vacations.  Conferences provide a similar function, but in addition they give us an opportunity to gain new perspectives on our routine and exchange ideas with others that can be incredibly valuable in dealing with the problems in our normal work environment.  That shift of focus can make all the difference in the world in how you tackle a problem when you return to the routine.

So, yes, the conference parties are what a lot of people think of when they hear us asking to go to a conference.  But they’re only a small part of what’s going on at the conference and even they serve an important role as a social lubricant.  Of course, that’s assuming that you’re safe and sane when drinking and don’t do something that’s going to get you in deep trouble back at the office.  There’s always a few people who don’t know when to stop at every conference.  Don’t be ‘that guy’.

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Jun 10 2014

If you don’t enter, you can’t win

Let me start by saying Nikita is brilliant and should be showered for accolades for coming up with this, presumably on the fly.

Let me give you some background.  Today was the day the letters about who’s talks were accepted for Defcon 22 came out.  Additionally, all the rejection letters for those not lucky (or well prepared enough) to be chosen to speak came out today.  I know my limitations, and as such, I haven’t submitted a talk to Defcon, other than being on panels and being part of the Defcon Comedy Jam in years past.  I also know I’m a smart ass and I jokingly asked Nikita on Twitter (@niki7a) “Can I get a #Defcon rejection letter?  Even though I never submitted anything.”  And here’s the reply I got.  As a coworker put it “So your talk on not submitting and regretting it was rejected because it wasn’t submitted and the rejection was song lyrics about not regretting your actions with a statement on why they regret rejecting your non-submitted non-submital? Meta.”

Martin,

The review board has reached a decision for your submission. Unfortunately, we will not be accepting your talk, “I didn’t bother to submit, and other regrets in the Hacker scene”, for DEF CON 22. If you submitted more than one paper, it may still be in review. Individual letters are sent out for each paper.

Every year, I have to write a bushel of rejection letters, and it’s never easy to shoot someone down who has put together a CFP. I really respect the effort each applicant puts into their work. The work you do, and the willingness to share your knowledge with the community is incredible, and I appreciate the fact you submitted with us. In a perfect world, every submission would be accepted and it’s contents shared with the community. Each talk has the potential to be the building blocks for a new idea, the solution to someone’s headache, the itch that needs scratching, or the salve for someone else’s.

In the end, I try to provide feedback for you so that when a talk is rejected you can get some sense of why and take that feedback to build a better paper. Hopefully, you can use it to submit it again to another conference, or again with us next year. Either way, Thank you again for the hard work. I’ve put together your feedback from the review board below.

———————————————
 We had to reject simply due to the fact that you didn’t submit. Maybe you will think about that next time. I mean seriously, like, what were you thinking?  I’d like to give you the following feedback as a way to help you understand this oversight on your part, perhaps my words will motivate you to improve your position for next year.

“And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

[instrumental]

Yes, it was my way”

Thank you for your time, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to berate you over electronic medium, I can’t wait to see you at the show!

Please consider submitting or not submitting again in the future, and I hope that you enjoy DEF CON this year.

———————————————

Thanks,
Nikita Caine Kronenberg

There may be material here for a submission to Defcon 23.

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Mar 20 2014

European InfoSec Blogger Awards

Next month is Infosecurity Europe here in London, taking place from 29 April until 1 May, as well as BSides London on 29 April.  I’ve never had the chance to go to either event and I’m really looking forward to my first time.  Another event that’s happening alongside both of these is the European Security Bloggers Meetup at the Teck Pub (appropriately named place for our group).  Many people may not know it, but I’ve been one of the people organizing the RSA Security Bloggers Meetup from the very start and I’ve been the MC for almost every single one.  So I’m very excited to see how the event translates to London and the European community.  I know it won’t be the same event, which is why I want to go.  Brian Honan is hosting with a little help from Jack Daniel and Tenable Security, which pretty much guaruntees this will be a most interesting shindig.

One of the aspects of the Meetup since the second or third year has been the recognition of bloggers and podcasters by the security community, the Security Bloggers Awards.  As one of the organizers of the Security Bloggers Meetup, I’ve always held my blog and my podcast as being out of the running for any recognition in the RSA version of these awards. I didn’t want there to be any potential conflict of interest with the awards, so it was easier to opt out of the competition all together.  Some people might say it’s because I feared folks like the Security Weekly Podcast and Exotic Liability taking the awards even with my competition, but I’m going to stick with my story of conflict of interests.  

But a funny thing happened last year; I moved my family to London.  Which means I’m now a European blogger and podcaster.  And since I have absolutely nothing to do with the European Security Bloggers Meetup or the European Information Security Bloggers Awards, I feel free to compete and do my best as a transplant to take whatever awards I can wrest away from the natives!  It also helps that the only ‘competition’ here in the UK that I know of are the Eurotrash Security Podcast and Finux Tech Weekly. And I’m pretty sure you have to have actually posted within the last year and you can’t have any pictures of WickedClownUK in spandex.  Not just can’t have them on your site, you can’t even be in possession of them.  Since the ‘rules’ of this competition are … well, non-existant, if I can convince voters of these requirements, it helps my efforts.

So go vote for Rich, Zach and me as the hosts of the Network Security Podcasts for Best European Security Podcast of 2014!  Sure, I’m the only one of the three of us that actually lives in Europe.  Yes, I’m not really European, I’m an American transplant.  But none of that is nearly as important as not letting Chris John Riley win the award!  So vote early, vote often, and just vote for the Network Security Podcast!  Or at least go vote, since I’m not really all that attached to winning an award, truth be told.

Hmmm, vote for the Network Security Blog as the Best Personal Security Blog too while you’re there.  Maybe I do care about awards after all.

 

 

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Dec 12 2013

Annual Predictions: Stop, think, don’t!

One of my pet peeves ever since I started blogging has been the annual ritual of the vendor security predictions.  Marketing teams must think these are a great idea, because we see them again and again … ad nauseum.  Why not?  Reporters and bloggers like them because they make for an easy story that can simply be cut and paste from the vendor’s press release, a fair number of people will read them and everyone gets more page views.  And there’s absolutely no downside to them, except for angry bloggers like me who rant in obscure corners of the internet about how stupid these lists are.  No one actually holds any of the authors to a standard and measures how accurate they were in any case.

Really, the amazingly stupid part of these annual lists is that they’re not predictive in the least.  With rare exceptions, the authors are looking at what they’ve seen happening in the last three months of the year and try to draw some sort of causal line to what will happen next year.  The exceptions are either simply repeating the same drivel they reported the year before or writing wildly outrageous fantasies just to see if anyone is actually reading.  Actually, it’s the last category, the outrageous fantasy, that I find the most useful and probably the predictions most likely to come true in any meaningful way.

These predictions serve absolutely no purpose other than getting page views.  As my friend and coworker, Dave Lewis, pointed out, most of the predictions from the year 2000 could be reprinted today and no one would notice the difference.  We have a hard enough time dealing with the known vulnerabilities and system issues that we know are happening as a fact; many of the controls needed to combat the issues in predictions are either beyond our capabilities or controls we should already have in place but don’t.  So what does a prediction get the reader?  Nothing.  What does it get a vendor?  A few more page views … and a little less respect.

So, please, please, please, if your marketing or PR departments are asking you to write a Top 10 Security Predictions for 2014, say NO.  Sure, it’s easy to sit down for thirty minutes and BS your way through some predictions, but why?  Let someone else embarrass themselves with a list everyone knows is meaningless.  Spend the time focusing on one issue you’ve seen in the last year and how to overcome it.  Concentrate on one basic, core concept every security department should be working on and talk about that.  Write about almost anything other than security predictions for the coming year.  Because they’re utterly and completely worthless.

Remember: Stop, Think, Don’t!

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Dec 03 2013

Santa Claus is coming … to your tablet?

Published by under Humor,Microsoft

Okay, this is just something cute for Christmas:  a tablet based Santa Claus tracker.  It appears that the actual application is only for Windows phones and Windows 8 systems, but there’s a web based version everyone can use.  Now, my Spawn are too old to be fascinated by this, but I’m sure there are a few people who have kids young enough to find this interesting.  I wonder if it’s hackable?

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Oct 20 2013

Yandex selling Cocaine?

Published by under Cloud,Humor

Talk about subtle marketing, Russian search engine Yandex has started a new cloud offering called Cocaine.  “Grab some cocaine in containers” is one of their taglines.  I’m sure someone is buying, but I wonder how they expect to get this delivered for their late night parties.

I want to say something about hosting your app engine in Russia, but right now I’m not certain that having it based there is any worse to many people than having it based in the US.  I would strongly suggest anyone considering building a new application to review the laws in Russia as well as the contract they’re signing.  Of course I’d suggest the same to anyone building upon a service based in the US as well.  In any case, encrypt your storage as securely as you can, no matter where you’re storing the application data!

I wonder how developers are going to explian that their applications are built using Cocaine?  This isn’t the 80′s and such things aren’t as acceptable as they once were.  

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Oct 17 2013

What’s a micromort?

Published by under Family,Humor,Risk

One of the cool things we’ve found on TV since moving to the UK is QI XL.  It’s a BBC show hosted by Stephen Fry where they take a rather comedic romp through a bunch of facts that may or may not have anything to do with one another.  Last night’s show was about Killers and a term that was completely new to me came up, a unit of measure called the ‘micromort’.  It’s basically a measurement equal to a one in a million chance of dying because of a specific event.  Really, it’s a scientifically valid measurement of risk.  And yes, our family has a strange idea of ‘cool’.

Why is the micromort important and relative to security?  Because humans, and security professionals are included in that category, have a horrible sense of the the risks involved in any action.  For example, you are 11 times more likely to die from a 1 mile bike ride, .22 micromorts, than you are from a shark attack, .02 micromorts.  Yet the same people who fear sharks greatly but are willing to go on a bike ride on a daily basis.  And many of those people smoke, which is a single micromort for each 1.4 cigarettes smoked.  People suck at risk analysis.

So could we come up with a similar unit of measurement for the risk in a million of a single action leading to a breach?  Someone needs to find a better name for it, but for the sake of argument, let’s call it a microbreach.  Every day you go without patching a system inside your perimeter is worth a microbreach.  Deploying a SQL server directly into the DMZ is 1000 microbreaches.  And deploying any Windows system directly onto the Internet is 10 million microbreaches, because you know that it’ll be scanned and found by randomly scanning botnets within minutes, if not seconds.

The problem is that the actuarial tables that the micromort measurements are drawn from millions of daily events.  People die every day, it’s an inevitability and we have a very black and white way of measuring when a person is dead.  We can’t even really agree on what constitutes a breach in security at this point in time, we don’t have millions of events to draw our data from (I hope) and even if we do, we’re not reporting them in a way that could be used to create statistical data about the cause of these events.

Some day we might be able to define a microbreach and the cost of any action in scientific terms.  There are small sections of the security community that argue endlessly about the term ‘risk’ and I have to believe they’re inching slowly towards a more accurate way to measure said risks.  I don’t expect those arguments to be settled any time soon, and perhaps not even in my lifetime.  So instead I’ll leave you with an entertaining video on the micromort to watch.  Thanks to David Szpunar (@dszp on twitter) for pointing me to it.

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Oct 07 2013

Explain it to me

Published by under General,Hacking,Humor

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a bit of a rebel.  Okay, to be honest, I’m proud of being a stubborn contrarian who’s going to do what he thinks necessary, despite what it might cost in the future.  Part of the reason is that I’ve always been smarter than average and I feel that I see and understand things in ways many others don’t or can’t.  And as long as I’m being honest, I also enjoy the chaos this engenders and the ability to thumb my nose at convention and authority.  I like upsetting people’s preconceived notions and making them think about things they might normally shy away from contemplating.  I want improvement over the present and I despise the status quo.  And I don’t think I’m at all unique amongst security professionals; we’re almost all rebels to one degree or another.

I believe people who love security as a career are similar to me in large part.  We’re people who see a problem that needs to be solved, puzzles that need to be unlocked and mysteries begging to be revealed.  Constant learning is something that is the hallmark of a good security professional.  If you look at the most successful hackers, they got to the top because they can’t pick up a piece of electrical equipment or software without trying to see how it works.  We want to understand, to unlock and hopefully to gain just a little more knowledge about how the world around us works.  And yes, I include ‘hackers’ in the continuum of security professionals, as a subgroup who tends to embrace the chaos more than the more corporate professional.

Let me give you an example.  Over the summer at a small conference in Las Vegas, a select group of us met at a restaurant for dinner, a not uncommon occurrence for that time of year.  What was a little unusual was that when we sat down, the waitress handed the group a set of iPads with the drink and food menus on them.  Apparently we were meant to place our orders through these devices and the waitress would magically bring them out several minutes later.  But you should have seen eyes light up around the table as everyone started considering how to break out of the menu app and make the system do things the restaurant had never meant for their app to do.  It was like Christmas in July!  Needless to say, it was only a few minutes before we had to hand one of the iPads back to the waitress with an explanation of “Umm, we think this one is broken, it shows another restaurant’s menu.”  They’d figured out how the tool worked, unlocked the puzzle and had some fun, all in one fell swoop.  This curiosity is the core of who we are.

This need to understand is one of the things that makes many security professionals hard to work with.  We don’t take orders well, or at least I don’t.  We want to understand the underlying logic of a decision; we want to understand the thought process that went into making the decision and why it’s the best decision.  “Because it’s always been done this way” is the bane of our existence; when was the last time anyone examined why of that way?  Does doing it that way still make sense?  Is there a better way of doing it?  Does doing this actually accomplish our goal, or is it just busy work?  Managers don’t want to explain, they just want to get the task done, despite the fact that the task might not be leading towards the actual goal, but away from it instead.  And sometimes that’s the right thing to do.

We, as security professionals and hackers of the reality around us, have to be aware of this need to understand and unlock within ourselves and take steps to counteract it when appropriate.  Personally, it’s hard for me to accept “this is just the way it needs to be done”, but sometimes that’s the correct path.  Those moments are relatively rare; I prefer to have the people giving me direction to explain what it is they hope to accomplish and let me figure out how to do it best.  In the main, we have the time to discuss, to understand and to come to an optimal solution for the problem, and often if we take the time to do so, we realize the problem we were really trying to solve is not the problem we thought we were trying to solve.

It’s always important to understand your own motivations in decision making.  It’s also important to understand the motivations of the people around you in that same process.  I don’t claim that every security professional is driven by chaos and curiosity, but most of the ones I gravitate towards are.  We see chaos as a method to drive improvement.  But being aware of that motivation and how it influences the decisions we make will help us not only make the right decisions, it will help make those decisions in a way that is less stressful for us and those around us.

So let your coworkers know that you’re not challenging them, you’re challenging the decision making process and seeking to understand why a decision was made.  You want to understand what the goal was and how the decision leads to that goal.  But also understand that sometimes the analysis of a decision is not a luxury that can be afforded at a particular point in time.  There are times where we just have to take orders and shut up.  It seems to go against the grain of who we are, but it’s an unfortunate necessity in some cases.

I’m lucky in that I’m at a point in my career, in my life and in my role that I’m not only accepted as someone who’s supposed to question the decision making processes, it’s expected of me.  You can’t be a ‘thought leader’ if you never question authority, never question the status quo, never  question the reasoning that brought us to this point.  But I also have to be cognizant of the fact that what is generally one of my strengths can also be one of my greatest weaknesses if I’m not careful.  Giving into the desire to understand when things just need to get done leads to frustration for everyone involved, and harmful to the mission when done at the wrong time.

I may be grossly generalizing my own rebellion onto the entire security and hacker community.  I know a lot of people are going to say, “I’m not at all like that”, and they may be right.  Each of us have our own unique set of motivators that push us into the decisions we make.  But this is a set of motivators I see as a commonality in the community I live in.  Understanding your own motivations is one of the best ways to combat the frustration we often feel when dealing with people who don’t see the world as a puzzle like we do.  And knowing they don’t see it the same way might help us communicate in ways that settle some of their frustrations as well.

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Nov 06 2012

Network Security Podcast, Episode 295

Published by under Government,Humor,Podcast

Rich is M.I.A. again, and we’re left do discuss Russia, “the biggest problem in computer security”, and the perpetual badness of industrial control systems.  And hopefully by the time you read this, all of the Presidential excitement will be over, or you’ll have a drink in hand and won’t care any more.

Network Security Podcast, Episode 295, November 6, 2012

Time:  35:06

Show notes:

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Jul 10 2012

Participating in Hacker Hug Bingo

Published by under Humor

I’m still not sure how this got started.  I’m not even sure what the point is.  But in any case I’ve been volunteered for a spot on Hacker Hug Bingo at Black Hat, Defcon and BSides Las Vegas this year.  The point is for participants to meet some of the rogue’s gallery of security people on Twitter and get pictures of hugs with them.  This should be fun for people like @diami03, who’s a little shy to begin with and will be very leery about being hugged.  Which brings up one of the most important rules of the game, ask before getting a hug or taking a picture.  Being the perverse jerk I am, I provided the contest with a 25+ year old picture of myself.  Too bad there’s not a way you could find a better picture.  I’ll be around from Tuesday through Sunday, so please take a moment to introduce yourself before asking for a hug.  BTW, there are prizes of some sort.  BYOP*

*Bring Your Own Penguin!  It’ll make more sense if you read the bonus rules.

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