Sex, Hacking, and Politics of Unicorns

I tend to try to deal with socially awkward situations using humor. It's a self-defense mechanism designed to prevent escalation in otherwise tense situations. So, when a well-meaning co-worker commented that my success as a woman in a male-dominated industry is a great testament to my capabilities, I replied that the real heroes are all the left-handed people who have succeeded despite their obvious disadvantages.

This response was obviously not delivered in seriousness, nor was it designed to be a constructive mechanism for dealing with the misunderstanding. The idea that the original comment could be misconstrued as an assumption that I must be 'better than average' as a woman in order to succeed among men probably didn't occur to the person who said it. The idea that this statement would be very awkward if applied to a racial minority probably didn't register, either. Likewise, issuing a reminder that my chosen profession has less to do with my sex than with my interests could have been offputting and taken as an unwarranted defensive reaction. But, while humor builds an interpersonal bridge in response to this misunderstanding, it doesn't resolve anything.

But, I am frustrated for my male colleagues who have been told that their failure not to single out my sex during meetings is a gross breach of professional etiquette in the world of modern gender politics. The obligatory "and gal, sorry about that, Heather" is intensely frustrating to me. Not only have I now been singled out to be stared at like an obscure specimen in a jar, but you are left to feel awkward about whether or not you and I are square. The positive side of this is, perhaps this awareness of my sex forces you to challenge unconscious biases that may exist.


Presenting at Conferences for Dummies

I was watching Defcon Unlocked Presentations and was inspired to blog about it.

The conversation centered around new people and especially women and minorities who feel like their message or their voice is unsuited for public consumption, especially at large conference venues. Many people who I greatly respect weighed in on this topic, and I'd recommend it for watching. This is my take.

Know your message. Cater to an audience. You're not an imposter. Inspire people. Take it seriously. Don't be afraid of failure. Know your support. Design with intent. Presenting is a skill.


Password Science 301 - Attacker tricks

In my last two posts (Password Science 101 and Password Science 201), I talked about password security from an introductory view, and hit on some of the math involved.

In this post, I'll talk a little bit about shortcuts that make the math easier, and talk about some of the actual techniques attackers use to attack passwords more efficiently. This isn't designed to be a comprehensive how-to for attackers to crack passwords. It's mainly designed to help the slightly math savvy and curious average person understand a little bit about the mindset of attacking a password.

Password Science - 201, the intermediate view

In Password Science 101, I gave a quick, very beginner introduction about what every person with a password can do to make a difference in security.

This post will be a longer post that talks a little more about the math and how it works, so that you can get a glimpse into the mind of an attacker and what an attacker sees when they want a password.

Password Science 101 - Password security for Everyone

There's always a lot of press coverage about passwords whenever someone gets hacked.

Since passwords are something that everyone has some personal control over, it's a worthy message to put out there. That's right. You can make a direct difference to the security of your banking information, your credit card number, or your dirty secrets on the Internet. But how?

This blog post will give you 5 easy tips you can use with your passwords to personally make a difference in online security.