#RANT2015 Breakout: Jen Jenny And The Axeman’s Jazz

[note: it’s a Life On Mars thing, in case you were wondering]

So, as many of you know, I like to write something up after I’ve been to a conference and this time is no exception. But I am going to do it differently this time.

Mainly because I’m tired – the tube strike forced me to walk enough miles that I now have some significant blisters on my feet – but also because I think the RANT Conference 2015 can be neatly divided into two parts: Jenny Radcliffe’s presentation being one, everything else being the other.

Why do I say that?

Well, simply it’s because the conference in general was good (more on that later) whereas Jenny was in a totally different league.

[disclaimer: I sat on the same table as Jenny throughout and am a bit of a fan anyway, having previously rated her talk the best of last year’s event]

So, why all the fuss about Mrs Radcliffe?

Well, I could repeat a tweet I put out on the day, saying that she’s smashing, but some of you may argue that was purely situational:

Jen Jenny

Or I could mention her performance as a representative of The Analogies Project.

Originally billed as a three-person presentation, the absence of the sadly-missed Sarah Clarke left Jenny and Dave Brooks representing an initiative described by the latter as an ISC2 patron and partner of RANT.

After detailing the success of Bruce Hallas’ creation, which is now a repository for more than 180 analogies contributed by more than 90 authors from around the world (20% of which are women which is impressive given that we were told that the industry is still 88% male),¬†Brooks gave us an analogy about an army training exercise in Thetford forest which culminated in a certain Sergeant-Major being forever known thereafter as ‘Sergeant-Major Me Hearty;’ an unfortunate name no doubt.

Brooks analogy, which made the point that you cannot rule by fear, was very good and much needed within the context of the day up until that point.

But there was more to come.

Next, Jenny was up.

After asking for the lights to be dimmed, she began the tale of the Axeman’s Jazz.

I need to be careful not to give too much away here as I know she will be publishing her analogy on the project’s site shortly [observation: I’m also aware of how long it took her to prepare as well] so I’ll paraphrase her story thus:

A murderer would enter houses using lock picks, use the occupants’ axe to kill them and then lock the door on the way out. After many murders he posted a note to a local paper, saying he would strike again on the coming Tuesday but would not kill anyone playing jazz music.

Needless to say, much of New Orleans, where the murders were taking place, listened to jazz that night, either at dance halls, clubs or in their own homes.

No-one was murdered that night.

Jenny’s exceedingly well-presented tale [fyi: she loaned me her portable battery charger while she was on stage] concluded by looking at the story from an InfoSec/Social Engineering point of view.

She said the axeman’s call to action (the widespread playing of jazz music that night) was highly successful because it worked within the existing culture – many of the victims were Italian and a certain level of paranoia ensued. She also said the attacks were personal and triggered an emotion (fear), whilst coming from a hard to define source (no-one was ever able to identify the murderer, hence effectively making him a faceless threat).

Overall, Jenny’s talk was superb.

I’ve been deliberately vague in my description – go read her full version when its published, it will be well worth it – and check her out too (she’s currently posing some social engineering puzzles which are good fun) as she’s a good laugh, supports the only football team worth talking about and is a pretty damned good social engineer [opinion: I’m biased; all Liverpool fans are cool].

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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