Reflections on SANS ’99 New Orleans: Where It All Started
A few weeks ago I saw some RT’s/@’s on Twitter referencing John Flowers and that name brought back some memories.
Today I sent a tweet to John asking him if I remembered correctly that he was at SANS in New Orleans in 1999 when he was still at Hiverworld.
He responded back confirming he was, indeed, at SANS ’99. I remarked that this was where I first met many of today’s big names in security: Ed Skoudis, Ron Gula, Marty Roesch, Stephen Northcutt, Chris Klaus, JD Glaser, Greg Hoglund, and Bruce Schneier.
John responded back:
I couldn’t agree more. That was an absolutely amazing time. I was on my second security startup (NodeWarrior Networks,) times were booming and this generation of the security industry as we know it was being given birth to.
I remember many awesome things from that week:
- Sitting in “Intrusion Detection Shadow Style” with Stephen Northcut and Judy Novak for something like 8 hours going cross-eyed reading tcpdump packet traces and getting every question Stephen asked wrong. Well, some of them, anyway
- Asking Ron Gula’s wife something about Dragon and her looking back at me like I was a total n00b
- Asking Ron Gula the same question and having him confirm that I was, in fact, a complete tool
- Staying up all night drinking, writing code in Perl and doing dangerous things on other people’s networks
- Participating in my first CTF
- Almost getting arrested for B&E as I tried to rig the CTF contest by attempting to steal/clone/pwn/replace the HDD in the target machine. The funniest part of that was almost pulling it off (stealing the removable drive) but electrocuting myself in the process — which is what alerted my presence to the security guard.
- Interrupting Lance Spitzner’s talk by stringing a poster behind him that said “www.lancespitznerismyhero.com” (a domain I registered during the event.)
- Watching Bruce Schneier scream at the book store guy because they, incredulously, did not stock “Practical Cryptography“
- Sitting down with Ed Skoudis (who was with SAIC at the time, I believe,) looking at one another and wondering just what the hell we were going to do with our careers in security
- Spending $14,000 (I shit you not, it was the Internet BOOM time, remember) by hitting 6 of the best restaurants in New Orleans with a party of hax0rs and working the charge department at American Express into a frenzy (not to mention actually using the line from Pretty Woman: “we’re going to spend obscene amounts of money here” in order to get in…)
- Burning the roof of my mouth by not heeding the warnings of the waitress at Cafe Dumonde, biting into a beignet which cauterized my mouth as I simultaneously tried to extinguish the pain with scalding hot Chicory coffee.
I came back from that week knowing with every molecule in my body that even though I’d been “doing” security for 5 years already, it was exactly what I wanted to for the rest of my life.
I have Stephen Northcut to thank for that. I haven’t been to a SANS since 1999 (don’t ask me why) but I am so excited about going back in August in DC (SANS What Works In Virtualization and Cloud Computing Summit) and giving a keynote at the event.
It’s been a long time. Too long.