Posts Tagged St. Louis

Cyber Cold War?

Next month, I’m excited to be giving a public lecture sponsored by The Tuesday Women’s Association (TWA) and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  It is part of their 2012 International Relations Lecture Series and is entitled Cyberspace: A New Cold War Front. It will be held on January 10, 2012 at 10:45am at the Ethical Society building on 9001 Clayton Rd., St. Louis, MO 63117.

I’m really looking forward to it. I’m used to lecturing at Washington University, and giving industry tutorials, and making business and standards body presentations, but a public lecture like this is is something different!

And this is a really interesting topic, too. I’ll be talking about Stuxnet, and other industrial cyber espionage. I’ll get to talk about the attacks on Google originating from China. I’ll talk about hacking as a weapon in various conflicts between Russia and former Soviet republics.

Of course, I’ll try to educate about computer and Internet security, drawing some examples from my techno thriller cyber crime mystery Counting from Zero.  While it is mainly about cyber crime for profit, the techniques and attacks are similar.

If you are in St Louis, it would be great to see you there. If not, maybe I’ll post a recording or at least my slides on this blog.

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Explaining Security

I spent all last week in Austin, Texas at the Internet Telephony Expo, ITEXPO conference.  In addition to giving the SIP and RTCWEB Tutorial and having a board meeting of the SIP Forum, I moderated a security panel at the 4th Generation Wireless Evolution 4GWE conference.  It was a great panel, with Patricia Steadman, CEO of Telesecret,a company founded by Phil Zimmermann to commercialize the ZRTP media security protocol, and a good friend and former colleague from Avaya, Andy Zmolek from LG Electronics.

As I enjoyed the cool and damp weather back in St. Louis (the opposite end of the weather spectrum from last week!), I was elated to discover that my novel “Counting from Zero” was ranked #12 on Amazon’s Computer Network Security sales list! (Of course, this ranking changes minute-by-minute, so it might very well be ranked a bit lower when you read this.)  I mark this as yet another milestone with this book, my first attempt at fiction.  To have it doing so well in a ranking filled with security text books is very exciting!

I was also thrilled to see two other books I greatly admire ranked just above me at #7 and #9:  The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security and The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers by Kevin Mitnick and William Simon:  I use both these books as references in my book.  I was thinking of Kevin all last week during my travels as I finished reading his newly released memoir Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker.  It was an amazing read, and I highly recommend it.  Maybe I’ll post a full review here one day soon.

My original goal with “Counting from Zero” was to teach the fundamentals of computer and Internet security, but to do it in a non-traditional way.  I had written one other book on security, “Understanding Voice over IP Security”.  Its sales have not been great, compared to some of my other SIP and VoIP books.  One reason is perhaps that security books tend to be dry, and a little theoretical, not well-connected with real life.  In “Counting from Zero” I tried to invent a plot that would not only teach security, but help motivate it.  I set out to create a character, Mick O’Malley, who would initially seem over-the-top in his security, but have the subsequent action and events make him seem more normal, and the rest of us who barely give security a thought the strange ones.

I have greatly enjoyed the reviews of the book, and those complementing my characters, writing, plot, etc.  But I enjoy hearing the most that a reader learned something from the book.

If you have an interest in Internet or computer network security, my book will help explain some basic concepts and help motivate the topic.  If you have ready my book (thank you!) and learned something useful from it (fantastic!), I’d love to hear from you…

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A Different Kind of ‘Bot

RoborebelsIn my techno thriller Counting from Zero, I write about a botnet, short for robot network – a group of compromised computers organized using the Internet to act in coordinated ways. These ‘bots are used to launch packet flooding attacks called distributed denial of service attacks, or DDOS. In short they are bad news, and my protagonist invests considerable energy in tracking down the botnet to try to neutralize it.

Today, I’m writing about a very different ‘bot – a robot that I have helped build as part of the robotics club at my son’s school. I’m taking the day off work to help setup in readiness for tomorrow’s robotics competition.

This is my first year as a mentor of roborebels robotics club at St Louis Priory School, Team #1329 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). For the past 7 weeks we have been constructing the robot and writing the Java software to control it.  I have really enjoyed the experience.  From watching the kickoff video, reading the rule book, brainstorming the design, to actually constructing and driving the robot: it has been great!  I’ve been really impressed with the way the high school kids have taken on the challenge.  At the start, it is obvious some have never used power tools before, but by the end, they don’t think twice as they move from the drill press to the chop saw.

FIRST Robotics

This year’s game is called “Logomotion”, and the robots have to hang inflated tubes on pegs on the wall.  It should be a lot of fun!   The day when we hung our first tube on a hook 10 ft (3m) up in the air was really a thrill.  Now we will see if we can do it in the competition!

After spending a day getting our robot ready and practicing the game, I’m just amazed at the variety and creativity of all the groups.  We all started with the same goals and description, but came up with so many different designs, shapes, and styles.  Now, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s competition.  And it is nice to be working with a good ‘bot for a change.

roborebels First Robotics Competition FRC Robot

roborebels First Robotics Competition FRC Robot at 2011 St. Louis Regional Comptetition

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