A New Line of Inquiry

Posted in unclassified -

I’m starting on a new line of inquiry here.

I’ve been doing web applications and unix systems programming for about 15 years now. Computer and network security has always been an aspect of what I do, but it’s never been my focus. I’m thinking it’s time to change that. I’m looking for a challenge, something that will keep me busy and learning for the rest of my life. Security is an unending struggle on an ever-changing field. I want to be doing something useful, and security is becoming more and more of an issue in daily life.

I’ve always been a generalist, and security seems to be a field where that’s valuable. It’s not about using one tool to do a specific job; it’s about understanding systems at multiple levels, how things interact and how they fail. It’s about how people interact with technology. It’s creative: there’s a lot of design that goes into making software both secure and usable.

I have a lot to learn; like I said, this has never been my focus. I need to understand unix systems and networking protocols at a much deeper level than I have before. I’ve said for years that you don’t learn anything from a working system. It’s when something fails that you have to go in under the hood and learn how it actually works. A corollary to that is that you need to really understand a system to figure out how it can break, or how it can be broken intentionally.

“Under the hood” means that I need to dust off my C programming chops and set aside the layers of abstraction that I’m used to. There’s also a lot of lore and literature specific to computer security that I need to absorb. There are tools for both attack and defense that I need to play with.

The best way to learn something is to try to explain it, so that’s what I’m going to do here. Let me know if it makes sense, if it’s useful. Let me know where there are gaps or unanswered questions, or where I’m just plain wrong.

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