You’re wrong…and so am I

This is going to be a short post.

Watching the echo chamber in the last couple days as well as watching “Builder vs Breaker” from BsidesChicago on Ustream makes me realize…we’re all wrong. There are so many diverse views from all areas of the world in our profession, you’re going to have someone that disagrees with your “facts”. You could say “the sky is very blue right now” while living in the US, but someone in Europe could say “Actually it’s currently black and the stars are really out tonight”.

No matter what you believe someone believes the opposite and is willing to debate with you, and this goes for pretty much anything:

  • Certifications are good / Certifications are bad
  • Pentests are needed / Pentests only find known vulnerabilities
  • Company A / Company B

What we need to realize is that we are going to have differing opinions and we need to listen to others even when we think they’re dead wrong. You may just realize that your “facts” weren’t as solid as you thought.

Irish Obsession

Alright so this is going to be a non-infosec post, so if you read me for that, you may want to go write some code or pop a box.

So I was texting with my wife about a tweet that Dave Shackleford made about a job in Vienna, Austria (my wife’s favorite country because of the Sound of Music movie). I was teasing her about how she wouldn’t mind going back to Austria (we were there last year) and how I want to move to Ireland. Now neither of us speaks German and that would definitely be an issue with moving to Austria. She also is a sunshine person (she gets moody when it’s cloudy/winter) so either country would be difficult for her to live in as well.

So with the overkill on the back story, it got me thinking on being obsessed with everything Irish. When we took our (4 years late) honeymoon there last year, I was on cloud 9 for 13 days. We were immersed in Irish culture, history, music, and people. I couldn’t get enough to the point that I was showing our 1000+ photos to anyone that would sit long enough to watch. We made the decision to go back this year when my parents and sister started talking about going. We’re now taking almost 2 weeks to go back in September.

I started thinking about all of this and how I’ve wanted to learn more about Ireland for as long as anyone in my family could remember. I used to think that my Grandfather’s parents or something must have been from Ireland with how we always used to say we had Irish ancestry. I actually got into the Ancestry site and found out I have to go back 5 generations on either side before I hit the Emerald Isle. I only have to go back 4 before I hit Germany on my maternal side. So it turns out that I’m not as Irish as I’d assumed as a child. With that in mind, it makes it a little strange that I have such an affinity for Irish Culture. My wife has been known to tell people asking me if I’d like (some “Irish” thing), “It’s Irish, he’ll love it”. Why that is, I have no idea. My family is definitely not “just off the boat” from Ireland or anything. I am proud that I have it in my heritage, but my family has been in the USA for generations, and I can also trace back to Germany, Wales, England, France, and possibly the Netherlands. If someone were to ask me where I’m from, I’m not going to say I’m an “Irish American”, I’ll just say I’m from the United States. I was actually offended for our tour director in Ireland when one of the old men on the trip told him “Well I’m as Irish as you are!” when he was born in New York somewhere.

I bought 4 different CD’s of Irish music while we were over there to add to the half dozen Celtic cd’s I had, and from the time we made the decision to go again, I’ve been conversing with @SecurityNinja, @BrianHonan, and @mckenna1977 about a tweet up while we’re over there. I just wish I knew where the obsession comes from. The time that I spend researching different folklore or history takes away from getting better with Infosec, but maybe it is just a diversion that I need at the time to let my brain cool off.

Not sure if this is normal or strange, thoughts? Anyone have a similar situation?

Yeah so…

…maybe you’re smarter, or have been in infosec longer, or perhaps you had someone help you along. Those are all really great things to have. What they are not is a license to lord it over everyone else or use it as a personal ego trip.

There are a lot of great people in this industry. There are ones that are trying to help people like myself get to where they want to be because it’s better for the industry as a whole. If you are not helping others learn you are part of the problem. There are those who help by creating blog posts on how to use tools or provide targets for those of us trying to learn to use the tools. Those are the people who are the “rockstars” of this industry. Not the ones that discovered the latest 0-day du jour.

Jayson Street made a comment when we were hanging out before Thotcon that hit the nail on the head. There are people out there who say “I broke it. You’re welcome.” They don’t care if anyone can fix it, they don’t care if anyone else learned from it. They are just there to beat their chest and inflate their own ego. That’s not helping anyone.

There are quite a few people out there that want to help others out and want to answer questions or give advice. Unfortunately those are also the ones that are often berated and put down because someone disagrees with their thoughts or feels they are only talk. Bringing attention to security is what we need and what we want. If we can get more people to care about security our job will be that much easier.

Will I ever be the top pen-tester in the world? No. Will I ever be on the cover of a magazine for how brilliant I am? Probably not. The reason I want to take this road is because I want to make the company I’m working for just a little bit wiser on what their risks are, so they have the knowledge to make a decision. It’s not a grandiose goal and I will probably never get rich off of it, but I’ll love going to work and I’ll do my best to help out those that come to me for knowledge and advice.

So to the @jaysonstreet @elizmmartin @ben0xa @securityninja @jwgoerlich @coolacid and @davienthemoose of the world, thank you for your insight and encouragement from a guy trying to start anew in this arena.

Burgers & Steak

So this has been said in a few different ways, but I figured I’d throw my twist on it. I was thinking today about the fact that you make choices in life. In your career, in your love life, in everything you make sacrifices of what you could do for what you want to do. The best way I could describe it is the differences between Burgers & Steak.

The premise is “hmm…well I could order the burger, or I could pay extra for the steak”. Now extra could be money, it could be time, it could be giving of yourself, whatever it is for that particular situation. In the instance of food, you’re weighing the taste of a steak and the extra money of a steak versus an (usually) inexpensive choice of a burger. While the burger tastes just fine, you want a juicy steak now and then.

In the realm of love, you could try to keep after the “steak” of a high-maintenance person who wants all of your time, money, love, etc., or you could eat a burger and be perfectly content with something that is satisfying and doesn’t bankrupt your wallet, time, emotions.

In work it’s a little different. You could say that you want the “steak” job. You want to be the ultimate (insert job here, CISO, Pen-Tester, Evangelist, Coder, etc.). The thing is, you need to sacrifice for that. You need to reduce other areas of your life to be able to devote that much (time, money, passion, etc.) to that pursuit. This is perfectly fine if you’re willing to move the time/money/passion to this part of your life. Your other areas of life are going to be affected though.

In your career you could chose the path of the “burger” though, and try for a little more balanced approach. You could still get the same “meat”, meaning you could be in that type of a job, but not the best or the “rockstar” (I hate that term). You would be the CISO, or the App Sec person, or whatever you chose, but you wouldn’t be the best at it. What you gain out of this is that the other areas of your life will be enriched by the extra time you spend in those areas. Your relationship will be stronger, you will be better at the guitar, your pet will remember who you are, etc.

The reason I bring this up is this is the week after Thotcon and BsidesChicago. I met a lot of ridiculously smart people the previous weekend. The kind of people that, even after being in IT for 13+ years, you feel like you’re the new guy. You start to get a little discouraged because you want to be that good. You want to be able to come up with things they come up with, or be able to discover new things like they do. The thing is though, that perhaps you may not be as good at coding as the next person because you took that weekend with your significant other to walk the dogs and just lay around. It’s not a bad thing, it’s the choices we make. It’s what you value and how you approach it. The burger is not a bad thing. It’s filling and a lot of times it’s comfort food that we need because it knows just how to pick us back up to make us happy. This is advice for myself even more than anyone else, but:

“Just be yourself. You’re not that person you just talked to, you’re you, and they have had different experiences than you have. Live your life and make the decisions you’re going to make. They make you who you are and why people love you.”