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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.

CSARN Organisational Resilience Conference

I was able to attend the City Security And Risk Network (CSARN) conference on organisational resilience today. It was a very well put together one day event with speakers from a broad range of companies and backgrounds such as the Police Force as well as military and traditional consultancies.

The key focus of the day though was of course on elements of organisational resilience such as incident and crisis management, the terrorist threat, global travel planning and the associated risks (in this case played against a backdrop of maintaining operations during the Arab Spring) and of course business continuity management. The speakers were knowledgable, and approachable during breaks for further questions. Justin Crump did a cracking job of maintaining order throughout the day and ensuring the audience was engaging well with the speakers.

Halfway through the day there was a panel discussion focussed on “building and embedding effective cyber security structures”, and I was pleasantly surprised to have been asked last week to be on the panel itself. (Cue jokes for how far down the list they had to go before they got to me etc…). Also on the panel with me was Geordie Stewart (who I am also speaking with at RSA and Paul Simmonds (Co-editor, Cloud Security Alliance “Guidance” v3 Co-founder & Board of Management, Jericho Forum Former CISO, AstraZeneca). I felt it came across as a very well balanced discussion, with some very insightful and focussed questions from the audience. I had been primed that the audience was not that well versed in all things “cyber”, but that didn’t really come across which made for a very enjoyable and engaging discussion.

We covered topics such as sources of cybercrime (state sponsored, organised crime and so called chaotic actors), what our thoughts were on the biggest threats coming out of the “cyber” threat and what we could be doing better at international levels. When each asked what the single take away from the discussion, mine was a rather glib, if valid, “plan for failure”; another strong take away to my mind was “get the basics right, everything else comes second”. Again, it sounds glib and from the school of the bleeding obvious, but over complicating any challenge is so easily done.

If I had one piece of critical feedback (well, two actually) it was that towards the end the presentations seemed to move into blatant sales pitches; now I understand sponsors need to get a return on their sponsorship, but it was the wrong forum to my mind for sales pitches. Secondly, I wouldn’t do something like this again on a Friday; it felt like half the audience had left come 2 o’clock, which can’t have helped the afternoon speakers at all!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself though, have some great key takeaways specifically for my business continuity planning, and I hope have planted the seeds of being able to return again in the future as a solo speaker!

My thanks to Acumin and CSARN for giving me the opportunity to be on their panel, especially alongside two people whom I admire in the industry.

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