Archive | September 2013

What’s this security stuff for anyway?

I am currently sitting in the BA lounge in Heathrow awaiting a flight to Delhi, and as I look around at the number of laptops lying around it reminded me of something I saw a few years ago at Delhi International Airport as I was waiting to fly back to the UK. It was so shocking I even used it as an example in a security article I wrote for my company on my return. Regular readers will know that I have a thing about unattended laptops anyway as it  has the potential of negating all of the technical measures put in place in certain circumstances. Anyway, I decided to write it up here as an example (and of course to kill the time in the lounge!).

It was about midnight, and I was in the BA lounge (sometimes shared with other airlines), and it was quite a busy evening so most of the seats were taken.

I was sat next to a gentleman who opened up his laptop and switched it on. It immediately asked for a password, I presume for the on disk encryption. He then had to log into his account, and then finally he connected his own data card (no local WiFi and inherent insecurities for him!) and subsequently connected to his corporate VPN using a username, password and an RSA two factor authentication token. All good stuff from a security perspective.

I noticed from his wallpaper logo right in the centre of his screen that he worked for an aeronautics defense contractor, so the level of security didn’t surprise me. What he did next however did…

After successfully connecting, he placed his laptop on on the table in front of him and went to the toilet… without even locking his laptop. He was away for 15 minutes.

I was so shocked I even took a photo of his laptop which is attached – this is honestly the laptop in question! If you look carefully you can see the window with his VPN connections in the middle of the screen


It summed up to me that even though there was all of this security on his laptop, it was rendered useless by his carelessness and utter disregard (or utter lack of awareness) of the security of the contents on his laptop. He entered the passwords that protected his data because that was what he needed to do to get his job done, not because he understood what it was for.

When we overcome scenarios, attitudes and understanding that results in this kind of thing being played out the world over, we will have addressed a huge amount of risk in our industry.

Bon voyage!

Sailing the High Seas at 44CON

logo-1I have just returned from 44CON, a technical infosec conference that is held in London and in its third year. As with any multi day conference you come back tired but educated, and happy but deflated that it is over. A speaker party, a conference after party, two gin’o clocks, a conference bar and some fabulous presentations makes for an exhausting two days.

Organisationally it is extremely well run; the crew are are friendly, knowledgable AND efficient (it’s rare to have all three), the venue is of a high quality, the sponsors are low key but available, SpeakerOps is excellent, and with the exception of myself and two others the attendees are amazingly smart and technical. I was able to chat to a number of the speakers at a reception on Wednesday night, and the level of detail they went into for their research was simply mind-blowing; one person even decided to write his own 3D presentation language instead of using PowerPoint or Keynote, just for this one presentation!

I spent the first day mostly at the InfoSec track rather than the technical track, learning about “Security lessons from dictators in history” and “Surviving the 0-day – reducing the window of exposure”, both very good. I did attend a technical talk in the afternoon along with two friends (the two mentioned above!), and to be honest he could have been speaking a different language with what he was talking about; to make it worse he apologised at the end for not making it technical enough! It was a fabulous talk though, wonderfully presented, and let down only by my lack of technical knowledge of the subject.

As a backup speaker for the infosec track I thought I was off the hook at this point as nobody had dropped out, but it was announced at this point that there would be a “hidden track” of talks, of which I was one of them. This hidden track would take place at an undisclosed location and you had to talk to vendors and other con goers to find out where it was. It was at this point I excused from the after party to add a little more content to my slides.

Sailing the Cs of Disaster Planning 44Con.001

Sailing the High C’s of Disaster Planning – Click for PDF

The following morning, after the opening presentation I was second in the hidden track. My talk was entitled “Sailing the C’s of Disaster Planning”, and the main drive of it was of a simple “framework” that allows you to be be able to not only test the effectiveness of your disaster/business continuity planning, but also help to communicate the key elements of the plan upwards to the board and down through the key players in the organisation. This was the first time I had given this talk, and to be honest some of the ideas have not quite been fleshed out, although the concept is sound. It was well received by about 20 people (not bad given it was a hidden track) and there were some good questions and conversations afterwards. Feedback received later in the day was both encouraging but also useful in highlighting areas that need to be improved.

A copy of the slides are above; if you take a look at them please provide feedback as always (caution, 12.5Mb PDF).

I will be using this blog to flesh out those ideas and gather feedback over the next couple of months, firstly by looking at the high level concepts of this approach, and then subsequently break down the five elements of the approach into further blog posts.

The remainder of the second day at 44CON was taken up with more talks, as well as a bit of filming with my two colleagues, the two unknown hosts you could say, for something we hope to release in the next few weeks.

I would like to thank Steve and Adrian and the entire crew of 44CON for an excellent event, and I am certainly coming back for next year, at a new, larger yet undisclosed location.

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