Flushing Risk at 44CON

logo-1I have just returned from two long days and two long nights of 44CON, the premier conference in London for technical InfoSec professionals (and even a few of us management types). It saw the debut of by “Flushing Away Preconceptions of Risk” presentation, an expansion of the my recent post for the Analogies Project.

The core messages of the presentation are not necessarily pleasant ones; the correct use of risk in any organisation is one of the most powerful tools in an information security programme, and yet it seems to me that very few of us understand it fully. Many of us struggle with not only identifying what the real risks are in the first place, but also how to measure them and even how to properly treat them.

Doing my bit to advertise 44CON

Doing my bit to advertise 44CON

Identifying risks at first seems like an easy think – identify assets, and then identify what could go wrong. I won’t elaborate the analogy much here (read it at the Analogies Project), but given how we regularly fail to identify risky behaviours correctly in our daily lives it should be no surprise we fail to do so professionally. The same bias applies to when we subsequently try and measure the risks; every mechanism we use introduces potential errors and even vagueness. I was quite proud to introduce the Langford/Malik Risk Model (ver 1.0), an approach that I evolved from one that Javvad Malik introduced in his book. Again, it uses an analogy although this time of a pub fight to not only describe levels of risk but also risk appetite. I do hope that not too many of you will find it useful next Friday and Saturday night.

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The Langford/Malik Risk Model ver 1.0

Finally the effective treatment of risk was covered, and how we so often simply do what has been done before, not what is going to be effective now. Just because a risk hasn’t been realised doesn’t mean you have treated it effectively, it just means that an incident hasn’t happened (that you know of).

The slides are below, but since my presentation style has evolved more into storytelling rather than bullet point reading, by themselves they may say little to you, but the session was recorded and when it is released I will make it available here. Like any presentation it barely touches the surface of risk management and its issues, but it was intended to be thought provoking and prompt people to not assume that just because they have always done things in a certain way that it is the best or even correct way.

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As for 44CON itself, well, any conference that has a “gin o’clock” on each day has to be pretty good in my books! It was a very well organised conference, with an excellent and highly motivated Crew to help support it. SpeakerOps were particularly good providing a personal touch I have not seen at any other conference. The quality of the talks and the speakers was also excellent, but as I alluded to in my introduction, many of them were technically beyond me!

The highlight for me however was a workshop I attended demonstrating the beta version of the Cyber CPR product. This is a virtual machine (that can also be deployed on ultra portable hardware if need be) that builds and entire incident management environment allowing for the discovery, gathering and analysis of evidence during an incident. It build a virtual “war room” environment, where multiple incidents can be tracked at once, in a secure and separate environment from the one that has actually just been breached. With tools built into the backend and access via a browser it even does away to have many of the tools on your own environment, making it great for remote and ad hoc use alike.

The product is in Beta at the moment, and does lack a few features, (they described it as not ready for active duty), but what i saw  was very polished and useful even in it’s beta configuration. Commercially it will be available for free with up to three users, and only $5k GBP for up to twenty (please don’t quote me on these figures though). I would strongly recommend you take a look at this excellent environment that for very little outlay will significantly improve many current incident response teams, and their over use of Excel. The team expects it to be commercially ready by Spring next year.

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Obligatory selfie with Jonathon Schiefer

The final highlight was to be able to meet Jonathon Schiefer  the director of the film Algorithm  which had its European debut at 44CON on Wednesday night. It was fascinating to hear about the backstory of the film, his challenges and even how he made the film financially and technically. He was an absolute pleasure to chat with, and I thoroughly regretted my decision to have a curry instead of watching the film. At a stretch you could say we are kindred spirits when it comes to our film making, but he is without a doubt in an entirely different league to me!

44CON will be back next year, but we were also enticed with the news of another 44CON spring conference being planned as well. I would strongly recommend anyone who can get to London to attend both of these conferences. Congratulations to Adrian and Steve and the many people in the crew for putting on a fabulous conference.


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.

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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.