RSA Conference, San Francisco
Day 2: Wednesday, April 9th

I know, I know- it’s late- but better late than never, right?

I really tried my best to take photos as much as possible. A quick note on the photography- because of the size of the rooms, it didn’t make sense to have the flash on, unfortunately it slowed the shutter speed, making some images blurry (sorry).

So Day 2 already felt like day 5 somehow. I had flown in early to be a tourist for a day or so but caught up with partners and other event-goers early, making it an especially long week. Wednesday was an eventful day. I have a great  Sins of Our Fathers session to share with you, a day with the Enigmas, and the Security Bloggers Party.

The highlight of the day’s sessions had to be the ‘Sins of Our Fathers’ breakout with an amazingly hilarious geek-filled panel including Daniel Houser, Ben Jun and Hugh Thompson. (Hugh unquestionably won the Most Entertaining Geek Award for the day). I was tweeting live from the session and took some photos of the interactive polls they intertwined in the discussion. They drew some interesting correlations between current security issues, such as SQL injections an ‘previous sins’, likening it to phone whistling. There were random notes about the inherent security risk of mixing data and coding together. View photos from session.

DSC01791.JPGThen they talked about using good technology in a way that made it vulnerable. Examples, the Enigma code machines from WWII. (It was actually broken by the known plain-text gathered from repetition in contact initiation, and the mis-use of one-time-pads). They drew the line from Enigma to WEP and other algorithms that were okay, but mis-implemented.

There were a variety of other anecdotes, accompanied by audience-wide snickers, snorts and laughter. One story of tape backups, encrypted, with the key dutifully stick-noted to the case. Another of the secretary who type-writered all the 5.25” floppies. The story of the unmanned Predator aircraft flying unattended for about 5 minutes during a PC reboot. They were all tied into the topic nicely, and the guys did an outstanding job interacting and playing off one another.

One a more serious note- well, sorta- Hugh showed a clip from his participation in the documentary “Hacking Democracy” about the lack of security of electronic voting.

Here was something amusing… Their crypto list of
If you hear any of these, RUN!

  1. Cryptography is expensive.
  2. We have this guy that’s reallllly smart…
  3. Wired EQUIVALENT encryption… . 
  4. It’s “proprietary” security
  5. It’s revolutionary NEW cryptography technology!
  6. It uses DES- so its FIPS 140 compliant 

Some of the sins from the session…

  • Engineering, Development & Management sins
  • Using a good technology in a bad implementation
  • Lack of metrics to indicate misuse
  • Feature/mission creep – using item A for solution B
  • Not teaching people how to use security
  • Teaching them, but teaching bad habits
  • Normalization of deviancy

I’ve spent long enough on that, there’s plenty more to share, but that session was so good, I thought it deserved some special attention. I did stay for the Cyber Storm II Panel, but that left more than ‘a little’ to be desired. I would have liked more anecdotal stories and a little more personality. The panel participants were knowledgeable, and I’m sure they were doing what they had been told, but it made for a very dry session, little content of interest, and much repetition. There’s a little live Tweeting from that session too.


Playing with the EnigmaDSC01797.JPG
At the Sins of Our Fathers sessions, I believe it was Ben that mentioned we had at our disposal not one- but TWO Enigma machines on the expo floor here are RSA. And BOTH were for our playing! They had it set so we could set the key and encode a message at the NSA booth, then take the encrypted message to the Cryptographic Research booth and use that Enigma to decypher the message. HOLY COW!!!!!! If their session hadn’t been so great I would have left right then. The only time I’ve seen these beautiful little pieces of crypto history, they’ve been fully encased in glass, and not for the touching. They actually let you set the rotors and punch the code in yourself so my buddy Eric and I ran right over to take full geek advantage of the situation. 

YES, that’s me with an Enigma, and I have more photos of the two Engimas.


The big highlight of the evening? The Security Bloggers Party of course! You get a whole post just for this topic, so stay tuned for that. I didn’t take photos here, because I felt pretty sure someone would be walking around with a camera. I need to find @ajolly (Apneet Jolly) and see if he has any- he’s usually fully equipped with a very nice camera…

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Author, speaker, and recognized authority on network and wireless security architectures, Jennifer (JJ) Minella helps organizations solve technical problems and align teams.

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