THOTCon & Bsides Chicago

Well I’ve had a few days to recover from the awesomeness that is the Chicago Con Weekend. This year I was able to ride/stay with a friend from GrrCon who was attending with some coworkers, meaning the base for operations was in the city. This proved to be good for location but only average for room quality.

Friday morning we headed to THOTCon for networking, beer, food, talks, and just all-around awesomeness. Although I didn’t see all the talks I wanted, or the people I wanted to meet, I was able to catch the keynote, Ben Ten’s “Creating A Powerful User Defense Against Attackers”, James Arlen’s “The Message and The Messenger”, Cyberwar” with Josh Corman & Jericho, PhreakingGeek’s “Y U No Sanitize bro?” and David Schwartzberg’s “Fun with Exploit Kits for Tech Support”. You can find the information (but no recordings) at www.thotcon.org

Most of the talks I was able to see were good (the ones that weren’t don’t read my blog anyway). The information presented was relevant, and the speakers held their own on stage. James’ talk about presenting will help when I speak at GrrCon later this year, but I think the Cyberwar talk was by far my favorite. So much information was condensed into an hour talk it was hard to take it all in. What I did like was the discussion about the audience being a “cyber militia”. You do have to wonder if we all had to “fight” online, how many casualties would there be?

Saturday morning had us on the way to Bsides Chicago. This was set to be my first CTF experience and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I brought pretty much every piece of electronics I own with me and the weight of it tore my backpack. Learning how a CTF works and banging my head against the wall for most of the day was ironic when Nicolle Neulist’s talk about how to start with a CTF was at the end of the day 🙂

The CTF itself was not only brain-draining but a lot of fun! The challenges were set out in groups based on easy/hard/etc. When you get so close to solving one without knowing exactly what they are looking for, it can be frustrating, but seeing the points go up on the board makes it worth it. I was able to capture 8 flags total in what I feel was a respectable showing for a first-timer!

The THOTCon after-party was in downtown and had good food and drinks as well as DualCore on the mic for a short period. More people were met, more hands shaken, and more networking all the people!

All-in-all it was a great weekend and I’m glad I was able to see/make friends and most importantly learn a lot! Looking forward to Source Conference Dublin in a few weeks so I will see some of you again soon!

GrrCON & DerbyCon

Although this is quite late, I think I need to write a post on the amazing time that I had at GrrCON and DerbyCon.

Well I started out the long weekend with a trip up to the speaker dinner for GrrCON (They actually wanted me to present something! Joke was on them! 😉 hehe). Grand Rapids is around two hours from my house so it wasn’t a long trip to start. Dinner was good, and I had some good conversations with David Schwartzberg, Nick Percoco, and Rafal Los in addition to the organizers & presenters of the conference. What I was not aware of was that the person I was staying with that evening lived an hour outside of the Grand Rapids area. We didn’t leave the dinner until after midnight local time so sleep was hard to come by for the day of my talk.

When I got to GrrCON and finally downed enough coffee and sugar to stay alert the rest of the day, I proceeded to wander the floor. I spoke to a few vendors, said hi to some friends, and even caught a few talks before it was time for me to speak. My talk on Infosec Flameout seemed to go over well, and although I didn’t quite make the times that I did in practice sessions, I hit a respectable 17 minutes for a 25 min talk. This left time for some audience participation & questions, and there were quite a few great comments from some of the attendees. I not only was able to reconnect with some people I knew, but create some new friendships that have been really beneficial as well.

I took the lazy way out that evening and drove home to sleep in my own bed before heading down to Derby for the remainder of the weekend. The ~4 hour drive wasn’t too difficult and I was there in time for some of the talks on Friday evening. The two conferences definitely had some differences also. Where GrrCON was held in a conference center and had a more traditional feel, DerbyCon felt more like a bunch of friends hanging out at a hotel. Derby also seemed a little more hectic because of the amount of people in the setup at the hotel lobby.

The talks that I was able to catch at both events were pretty decent and I only walked out on one. I’ve listed each (except for the one I walked out on to protect the innocent) below if you want to watch them when they’re posted. Next year the organizers have also ensured that the two conferences are on different weekends so you can attend both. I will definitely be trying to go to both if possible. Guess that depends on if I can save enough pennies!

As I stated in my talk at GrrCON, networking with the community is incredibly important. You need to have friends, contacts, whatever you want to call them. They are invaluable for advice, help with finding a job, or just someone to bounce an idea off to see if you’re on the right track. So next time a conference is near you, get out there and get involved!

Talks at GrrCON:

  • House of Cards – How not to Collapse when Bad Things Happen – Rafal ‘Wh1t3Rabbit’ Los
  • Punch and Counter-punch with .Net Apps – J Wolfgang Goerlich
  • Mobile Attacks: What will the future bring? – Nick Percoco

Talks at DerbyCon:

  • Jayson E. Street – Securing the Internet: YOU’re doing it wrong (An INFOSEC Intervention)
  • James Arlen – Doubt – Deceit -Deficiency and Decency – a Decade of Disillusionment
  • Robert (Arch3Angel) Miller / Boris Sverdlik (JadedSecurity) / Rafal Los / Heather Pilkington /Krypt3ia – Bring your own doom or sane business decision
  • Michael Schearer – Flex your right constituion and political activism in the hacker community
  • Benjamin Mauch – Creating a powerful user defense against attackers
  • Boris – You Can’t Buy Security. Building an Open Sourced Information Security Program
  • Andy Cooper: Why Integgroll sucks at Python..And you can too
  • Chris Jenks: Intro to Linux system hardening

How I learned about file encryption

So a week or more ago I mentioned on Twitter that I would tell the horrible encryption failure I had when I first found out about how to encrypt data. When I first moved into Information security years ago, I learned about how you could encrypt data and no one would be able to view it without the key.

So I was running Windows XP at the time and I decided to play with the Windows EFS on my home machine. I encrypted my local “personal data” folder, and moved it off to secondary storage.  I was able to view it, open it, move it back and forth, etc. The time came to reload my machine. I was careful to move and verify all my data on the secondary storage, verified I could access it, open it, etc.

I proceeded to DBAN the local drive, reload the OS, install the applications, and when the time came to move the data over, I couldn’t open it. I thought “Hmm…that’s odd…” I proceeded to try to re-copy the data over to the local drive, and check a few of the attributes of the file before realizing that I had encrypted the files before moving them. I moved them to a NTFS drive, which meant it kept the encryption intact when I copied them to the external drive. I did my best google-fu to try to find any way to get this data back. The “personal data” contained family photos, my resume, web favorites, etc., so I was definitely not happy about losing it.

I even went so far as to ask a coworker to call in a favor to a friend at Microsoft. The reply was there was no backdoor/master key to get the data back again. I was learning a hard lesson in encryption really fast. Although I knew the passcode for the key, I was unable to retrieve the data. The good thing that it did was make me want to learn more about file encryption and what can/can’t be done with it.

I learned about file versus whole disk encryption, as well as where keys are stored. I also learned to be sure that no matter what, you move the keys if you’re going to wipe a drive! If I can offer anything to anyone about file encryption it would be to completely understand how it works before you play with live data when you have no other copy.

Also…if anyone breaks 256-AES EFS I’d like to chat with you 🙂

Treading water in the sea of knowledge

So I had this thought last night watching a video from SecurityTube (which is now my new video hangout place) about burp proxy. SecurityMoey mentioned it to me, I’ve talked about it in my presentation at BsidesDetroit, I’ve said it to people, but I haven’t done it myself lately…

Unplug.

When you’re swimming, you can only power-stroke so long before you become exhausted. You need to get out of the water, dry off, sleep, eat, de-prune yourself, etc. You get to the point that you can spend forever in the water until the only thing you can do is float or tread. The same is true for learning. I would assume this is the reason for summer break for school kids. They need time where they can “just be”. You need time where you aren’t constantly learning. You need to let your brain idle for a bit so you can go back at it with renewed vigor.

I started to realize that I wasn’t taking my own advice. I needed to take a step back, and watch a movie, play a game, or just sit and have a conversation with my family. So while I ordered a few new books, and I updated all my tools to play with, I think tonight will be a no twitter, no computer, no tech evening.

Anyone seen my towel? It’s time to dry off for a bit.

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.