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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sector 2011 Debrief

The CSD crew is composed of all kinds of contributors from different walks of life and professions. Some of us are lucky enough to live and breathe this stuff professionally; as such, we get to attend fancy industry conferences that discuss varying aspects of our differing professions, but which can readily be tied to the Sheepdog mentality.

I had the priviledge to attend one such conference, the annual SecTor security conference in Toronto, Ontario, which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and wrapped up just a few minutes ago. SecTor, short for "Security Toronto", is an annual event that brings together information security professionals from across Canada, with presentations from experts worldwide. As a result of what I experienced at this year's conference, I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to provide a summary of the lessons learned. If there's more interest in any individual subject area, let me know and I'll be happy to post something more detailed on the subject.

Top Things to Watch:

1) Despite glaring security risks, many companies are still finding new and innovative ways to expose your personal information. One of the latest trends involves "near field communications". NFC is insecure, period, but this hasn't stopped banks and other companies from enabling payment systems using contactless NFC technology. Watch for this to be heavily exploited in the near future.

Technology is neat. Don't get ripped off. Understand the risks and educate those who don't.

2) Espionage is Alive and Well. A well known and respected security research firm blew the whistle on a very interesting compromise that seems to have targetted Iran's nuclear program through a very complex attack that could only have been funded by a certain three-letter-agency in a purposely unnamed country. This attack was one of many, and many others have been exposed that are obviously being conducted by foreign governments. What's really interesting is that the attacks didn't target the usual targets...they targetted (and continue to target) employees in downstream material providers for defense contractors, which ultimately provides access to the final assembled components.

Foreign (and domestic) intelligence services will exploit the same social weaknesses as criminals, with a difference; big budgets. Don't for a moment think that anything on your computer, from your computer, or attached to your computer is safe from interception or exposure. Encrypt everything, and keep sensitive contingency plans off the grid.

3) Smartphones are Computers Too. Why don't we think of them as such? Android and Windows phones can be "weaponized" to create hacking platforms which can bypass many of the restrictions on our corporate networks. They can also be hacked, providing access to all the information on your phone. Passwords are good, but like anything, they won't stop a determined attacker. If it's sensitive, encrypt it, or better yet, keep it off your smartphone.

4) Any idiot can pick a lock. In fact, this idiot is surprisingly good at it. When presented with some simple lockpick tools and about 30 seconds of rudimentary instruction, I was able to pick a myriad of locks ranging from single tumbler training locks right up to 7 tumbler master locks. As a result of this, I no longer have any confidence in anything shy of a Medeco.

Bumping a lock can get through just about anything, but it often destroys the lock in the process. Doing it the old fashioned way leaves almost no traces...the implications should be obvious. The tools are available for purchase relatively cheaply, they're legal to own and use (unless you use them to commit a crime), and yes, at least to me, it's every bit as easy as you see on TV.

Of course, I ordered a set. They'll occupy a covetted spot in my bugout bag.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

STKR Scout - Perfection Simplified

After seeing the work-in-progress shots of the Scout, produced by Canadian knifemaker Mike Pryor, owner and founder of STKR Knives in Ottawa, I virtually leaped at the opportunity to give it a go. I’m not a “knife person,” by any means. My personal philosophy has always centered around skills, where knives are simply tools to be employed when required – and tools are not to be fussed over. However, every once in a while a particular tool will stand out amongst the rest and practically beg to be employed in a practical situation. That’s where this little knife came into the picture.

The Scout is a compact drop-point, O-1 tool steel, utility knife with a 23/4” (6.5cm) long, 1/8” (4mm) thick blade and an overall length of 63/4” (17cm). Make no mistake, this blade is compact, but it’s really no larger than it needs to be. This particular Scout arrived with a mirror finish, its full tang wrapped in black paracord, and a matching black kydex sheath with integrated belt loop. The kydex sheath is of particular interest, as it can be altered to be worn either vertical or horizontal and incorporates a magnet to give the sheathing action a more positive lock. These knives are custom built to order, so there are a number of handle and finish options to choose from.

Given its small size, the Scout is best employed as a compact workhorse for detail work and camp chores, such as whittling, carving and general cutting duties, where a larger knife would be too unwieldy or cumbersome. The fairly straight drop point on the Scout lends itself to durability while also making it practical for delicate tasks, like punching holes in leather or removing an annoying splinter. For those looking for an alternative to a compact folding blade for everyday carry, the Scout would serve admirably.

Overall, the impressions on this knife are excellent. The edge arrived razor sharp, and after two weeks of use and abuse it is still hair-popping fresh. While too small for larger camp duties, such as batoning firewood, the Scout really has no equal as a companion blade. It handles confidently, comes with a fantastic kydex sheath, and looks great. The fit and finish is top notch and I’m confident that this little knife would be a welcome addition to any collection.

For those interested, you can contact STKR knives on their Facebook page here:

This Scout will be featured in an upcoming giveaway. Keep your eyes peeled!

Have something to add? Questions? Further discussion on this article can be had here.