Why I am an Analogies Project contributor

Bruce_Hallas-300x286That devilishly handsome bloke you see to the right is Bruce Hallas. I used to go to school with him nearly 25 years ago, and then last summer, at the first old boys school reunion that our year organised since leaving I met him again, and it turns out we are in the same infosec business. I spoke to him about all of the good work I am doing, the company I work for, the many countries I visited and generally tried to make myself feel more important than the skinny eighteen year old I was when I last saw him. He told me that he runs his own infosec consultancy, his own blog, works with the UK government, and was in the process of setting up “a project” as a freely available, self funding, resource of analogies/stories to help people better understand information security. (Bruce immediately won the “my life is awesome since leaving school” competition of course.)

Since that time, The Analogies Project has grown from one man, an idea and a website to something producing real, quality content, and with a very promising and bright future.

In the words of the Project itself;

The Analogies Project has a clear mission. To tackle the unintelligibility of information security head on and secure the engagement of a much broader audience. Its aim is to bridge the chasm between the users, stakeholders and beneficiaries of information security and those responsible for delivering it.

Through a series of innovative initiatives the Analogies Project will enable information security professionals to effectively communicate with their chosen audiences. The content will be delivered through a variety of alternative communication techniques, media and partners.

The part of this project that I like the most is that it is essentially a community project. Bruce isn’t charging money for membership to the analogies as they are written (and they are coming thick and fast now!), and none of the contributors are charging for their work either. There are not only the web contributions in the form of a library, but a book planned, a conference, and even an opera! With the momentum that is currently behind the project at the moment there is every reason to believe in its future success.

So why am I contributing? Honestly, I have selfish and philanthropic reasons to do so. Obviously it gets my name out there, allows me to practise my writing, test some ideas and also say “I was there from the start”. All that aside though, I have frequently struggled in my day job to get infosec concepts across to people, either directly, in meetings or even in awareness training. To have had a resource like this available to me five years ago would have made my life so much easier, allowed me to advance the infosec “cause” more effectively and given me a set of tools I knew were consistant with the prevailing thoughts of industry commentators. Having a centralised, peer validated, toolkit available is fundamental to us as professionals when it comes to the messaging we give to our users, clients, bosses, teams and even the infosec community as a whole.

It’s still early days, but I have submitted my first contribution just last week (soon to be published I hope) and I am already inspired enough to be working on my second and third. There are a number of analogies already in place, and I would urge you to read them and consider them in the context of your current communications to your audiences, whomever they may be.  The book will be another important milestone and one I hope to play a part in; indeed I hope to be able to play a part in the the project for the forseeable future, and why I am happy and proud to display my “contributor” badge up on the top right of this site.

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If you feel you have something to contribute, then head over to The Analogies Project and let Bruce and the organisers know. If you don’t feel ready to, then certainly check it out anyway. You won’t regret it.


Taking RANT to New Levels

Noise Next Door giving conferences a new twist

Noise Next Door giving conferences a new twist

For a variety of reasons I have been unable to post here as frequently as I have liked, but the great advantage of attending a conference is that it does spur one into action to get something written down. Tuesday Jun 11th saw a new kind of conference come to town, the RANT conference. Based upon the monthly RANT forum there were only three individual speakers with the rest of the sessions effectively panel debates but with significantly more audience interaction encouraged.

There were a number of highlights for me, not least all of the people I met there, new friends and old. One of the big surprises for me was the opening keynote from Mark Stevenson of the League of Pragmatic Optimists. I thought it an odd choice of speaker, a futurologist, but very much enjoyed his talk once I got over myself. he looked at (amongst many other things)  how the digital revolution is changing our lives daily. What it came down to though is that despite the massive amount of change that has gone before us, the digital revolution is merely the cocktail sausage of dinner; we cannot begin to imagine what is around the corner.

I also enjoyed watching Javvad play up to his InfoSec rockstar status alongside Neira Jones and the irrepressible Stephen Bonner. It was unfortunate that the final panellist, Ed Gibson, killed the dynamic of the panel dead, changing what should have been an upbeat and funny session into a monologue of personal dislikes that crossed the line into embarrassing.  I thought Javvad played to his RockStar persona very well, but also presented how he made his way to the level of industry notoriety he currently enjoys and the benefits it actually brings to the industry. The serious point of them actually being ambassadors for infosec was quite rightly made. Unfortunately Ed did the same for the next panel on state sponsored espionage, killing what should have been a powerful insight into the topic given his background. I understand Ed is a very highly rated speaker, but on the evidence of yesterday I won’t be rushing to see him speak, and how he handled himself was unfair on the other panellists and indeed on us as an audience.

The Boy Band Strikes back

The Boy Band Strikes back

The rest of the day went very well though, with plenty of laughs with the University Challenged pitting the grey hairs of the industry against the students of Royal Holloway, and a session on security awareness that I was invited to participate in alongside Geordie Stewart, Charles Clarke, Christian Toon and my old mate Bruce Hallas. The reaction from the audience was very positive, with some great questions and opinions. We didn’t all agree, which is exactly what needs to happen; if we all agree, nothing changes, but if there is dissent then that can finally lead to actually driving change in the industry. On the whole it was well received and moderated nicely by Jim Shields, although someone did tweet that he thought the conversation was “same old same old re training me thinks” which is actually fair enough; I do think however that we can only stop talking about it when it is “fixed” (whatever that means!).

Stephen Bonner’s presentation was a distinct improvement upon what he presented at BSides, and was a thoroughly enjoyable rant, replete with chocolate missiles for the audience.

The excellent Twist and Shout were managing the video and photography, and shared many of their corporate training videos in the breaks between sessions that not only gave a very polished and slick feel to the whole day, but also some light relief.

Networking drinks were copious and enjoyable, and the dinner was excellent with after dinner entertainment from Jim Shields in his stand up comedian alter ego and an improv comedy troupe Noise next Door. A fuzzy head this morning tells me I had perhaps a little too much fun.

It was an awesome conference overall, and I hope to see it grow and become part of the established circuit. The format can only get better as while there is a place for the traditional presentation of one person delivering content and then taking some questions has its place, there is a huge advantage to the RANT approach. It allows the audience to engage far more effectively and I would hazard a guess that the audience actually retains more than the standard 20% of content afterwards. Huge congratulations to Acumin for not only making it happen, but also for ensuring it was as free from the commercialisation of so many other vendor driven events, a hugely refreshing approach. The biggest congratulation of the day though must go to Gemma for making it happen.

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