Friday, July 7, 2017

How to Lose Like a Champion

Some of you may remember that just recently a little side project which I am a part of with Devon Ackerman had been nominated for a very prestigious award in our field of Digital Forensics and Incident Response called the Forensic 4:cast award. Perhaps some of you reading this even voted for us, thank you for that. We didn't walk away with the award and I know this sounds trite, but it truly was an honor just to be nominated. I mean that. It hurt to lose, I don't know how else to phrase it, it really did, but when we lose in life, there can be real value in that, and that's what I'd like to focus on.

The first thing I thought when we didn't win was, what am I going to tell my little girls back home. Of course the truth, but how could I hide my sadness from them and not look like a poor loser! I texted home and an answer shot right back..."We have to show them real life!" That was great advice, and honestly, it was the kick in the [you know what] that I needed!

The reality is, there was a ton of good in our loss. Let's count all of the blessings first. I had finally gotten a chance to meet my partner Devon Ackerman in person, what a joy! I also had the pleasure of meeting more than one person who came up to us to tell us how much value they have gotten out of our project

One of the persons who approached us was Jessica Hyde. Jessica was one of the first persons I met at the conference. She made a point to march right over to us and introduce herself and tell us how much she enjoyed our project. Turns out, she was born a few miles from my home and the next time she visits her parents, she's coming to dinner! But there's one more thing you need to know about Jessica (besides the fact that she is a wicked h@cker and gave one of the most awesome talks at the con). Jessica works for Magnet Forensics, the company that won the award in our category. Yup, that's right folks. Here we were competing against her company, but she had taken it upon herself to come over to us and compliment us on how much she enjoyed our project. Wow! None of us knew at that point who had won the award or who had lost, but I can assure you that when her team won the award and we didn't, she was one of the first persons I reached out to to congratulate.

I had put some thought into what I might write in a blog post in the off-chance that we won, and I think those ideas still hold some value so I'll share some of them below.

I believe that one of the things that makes our DFIR community great, is that we share, but what's ironic (and complicated) about that is, when you look at some of the folks in our space who have shared, and their incredible tools, blog posts, code, etc., it can be rather intimidating, at least to someone like me who sometimes wonders if I'd be more comfortable in a cave.

The other thing about sharing is that when you put yourself out there, you give up some control of your work, which can be scary on different levels. For one, control is a hot-button topic among many security practitioners. We love our controls, but I bet we've all worked for someone who's taken it a bit too far and either (a) not shared enough and kept too many keys to the kingdom to themselves and then the business suffered a single point of failure, or (b) locked-down users to the point they had trouble getting actual work done.

Also, in some respects, sharing can make you vulnerable to criticism (good or bad) - here's an example - if you're a singer-songwriter like myself, you might publish a song and then have someone get a totally different meaning from it, or someone else might hear a lyric incorrectly and have that song take on a whole other meaning. I remember my agent having to explain to me how I shouldn't get so bent out of shape by that. She called it, "poetic license" and went on to point out how it can be a beautiful thing. Afterward, I thought about all the times I had sung the wrong words to popular songs and was guilty of the same myself!

So when I returned home from the conference, my daughters were so excited for me! My oldest asked me, "Mom, what prize did you win for second place?!" And I took such great pleasure in sharing my wonderful life lesson with them, that for a fleeting second, I was almost glad we'd lost.

In closing, I suppose some of the above can be reasons not to publish or post, but our community is built on sharing, and it only gets better if everyone contributes. Don't be afraid! There's a little song I used to sing when I was a child called, "This Little Light of Mine" - I bet some of you know it!  Everyone has an inner light, find yours and let it shine!  Even if all you think you have is a bunch of annotated URL's in a NotePad file floating around somewhere (like yours truly), you can still turn that into something useful for others - and if one person benefits, isn't that winning? Isn't that your real prize?

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