Expert speaker session at Northumbria University

Last week I had the pleasure of being asked to speak at Northumbria University, presenting to students of the Computer Forensics and Ethical Hacking for Computer Security programmes. As I graduated from Northumbria a few years ago it was interesting to come back to see some familiar faces and have a look at how the facilities had developed.
Despite the nerves of having to speak in front of a crowd I really enjoyed the event, especially as the other speakers were excellent and I enjoyed their sessions. The event kicked off with Dave Kennedy, a soon to retire member of Durham Police’s computer crime unit. Dave’s talked about his personal experience with a couple of high profile cases, explaining some of the groundwork and behind the scenes activity that isn’t known to the general public. I found the information interesting; but also disturbing, given the nature of the material that is handled by Dave and his department I can safely state that I wouldn’t want to have much experience in the area.
Next up was Phil Byrne, an internal auditor for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). For those that don’t know, HMRC were/are at the centre of one of the UK’s largest data loss stories in 2007 after CDs containing approximately 25 million child benefit records were sent, unencrypted, by standard post and did not reach their intended destination (some backstory here). Phil talked openly about the incident, discussing both the incident itself and the changes made in response. One of Phil’s comments has stayed with me (if I’m mis-quoting someone let me know):

If you put people into the process, something will go wrong at some time

Third to the stand was Gary Witts, owner of a manage services company specialising in on-line backups. The talk was very indepth and had some interesting content, but from my perspective I felt it was more of a sales pitch than a technical discussion of the secure backup’s place within a security standing.
I took the fourth and final slot of the day, which left me with the unenviable position of being between around 100 students and the pub, which didn’t help my usual rapid-fire presentation style. My presentation took a different focus from the previous sessions, discussing some of the real-world security incidents that can regularly be encountered, and some advice on handling the incidents in question. I also discussed my findings from honeypot systems, introducing a less common method for monitoring an environment for malicious activity. Assuming the feedback I’ve recieved is genuine the presentation seems to have been well-recieved.
From a student’s perspective; Tom was in the audience and has been writing up his take on the event in a series of blog postings. Tom also recorded the talks, for any one interested a direct link to my session is available here.
Andrew Waite

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