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In The Weeds: Taking The Digital Path Less Traveled

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My husband just got home from Def Con. It’s this mysterious place he’s been going to many a summer that I couldn’t (mostly because we have five children between the two of us and one of us had to keep the home network safe). Before the annual conference — that this year attracted a record number of people, 22,000 — he gets all geeked up and works on hacker puzzles, and bones up on the latest and greatest in the information security world. It’s clear to me that this is his Mecca, and these people, his tribe.

1defconWhen he returns, he’s just as amp’d up and full of new tricks of the trade, as well as tools to keep the digital world safe. The first year he came home with a lock-picking set and that’s when I learned that it isn’t all 1s and 0s when it comes to digital security. Because of his interest and sharing of said interest, I was able to break into my bedroom when I’d accidentally locked myself out. I ruined two insurance cards doing it, but the feeling of badassness of being able to hack the door knob – oh, and learn it’s weaknesses still sticks with me today. Oh, and changing the locks to something more secure and wondering why it bent to my will thrilled me beyond measure. It wasn’t criminal – it was my own property, but the unraveling of something meant to keep me out just made me excited to learn more.

Over the years married to my spouse, my interest in digital security has only heightened. But, it was only in the recent weeks leading up to Hubby’s departure to DefCon 24 that I realized my interest was deeper than just being an observant writer/journalist and a supportive spouse. I wanted to learn more. Hubby’s a good teacher, but he also works full time in the digital security world and has been for nearly 20 years. I started following certain InfoSec folks on twitter (and they followed me back!) I have Google Alerts to bring me information about vulnerabilities and other key words in the hacker world. I have been reading articles for years and continue to do so. My InfoSec bookshelf is beginning to rival that of my writing and farming shelves.2defcon

Clearly, I’m on a quest and journey to delve deeper into this subject matter, world, culture, and tribe. Like everything I do, I’ll write about it. Not that stepping off the precipice of the “civilian” cliff into the world of InfoSec isn’t scary. I am anxious about things like DDOS attacks, the whole GamerGate attitude flying into my face because I’m a woman, to potentially putting my husband’s work in jeopardy, for there is some not so nice aspects to this world  — think MR. ROBOT, or ZEROES, or LITTLE BROTHER, and the like.

However my need to explore and gain knowledge really trumps that anxiety. I’m interested to answer questions like: How much stronger are passwords with numbers? Or how do criminals use stolen credit cards without leading cops right to them? Why do nerds prefer command line over a GUI? Why is curiosity a crime? When you buy hardware, is it yours to tinker with? Take apart? Replicate? Improve? Why is (insert tactic) important? How does it work? What are its hidden assumptions that lead to unintended flaws? Regardless the subject, the hacker community is much more about the mindset than any technical detail and I intend to peel that metaphoric onion. Right here on this farm that has a server in the garage. Can you straddle the analog and digital world successfully? I intend to find out.

So, from one nerd/noob to another, you can follow along and maybe you’ll learn something. I know I will.

 

Published inIn The Weeds

3 Comments

  1. Lois Buhalis Lois Buhalis

    “I was able to break into my bedroom when I’d accidentally locked myself out. I ruined two insurance cards doing it, but the feeling of badassness of being able to hack the door knob – oh, and learn it’s weaknesses still sticks with me today. Oh, and changing the locks to something more secure and wondering why it bent to my will thrilled me beyond measure.” Well, yeah, that’s something that’s fascinated me forever. I used to break into the office closet in high school (this was teacher approved) with a jack knife, so the fencing equipment could be liberated for class. I don’t know much about the digital side of this, but actual locks are fascinating to me, maybe in the way that a “gateway drug” is fascinating. So, yeah, I’ll follow along with this. I’m a learning junkie, especially if it’s something I’m particularly interested in.

    • Cool, at least I won’t be boring one person.

    • Also, digital security is just about coding locks or digital locks, so yes, in essence, it’s lockpicking sometimes. We’ll have fun discovering it together!

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