#RANTCon 2014 – My Thoughts

After attending theĀ inaugural RANT Conference last year, I had been anticipating this year’s event for quite some time (I don’t get out much).

Remembering the horrible journey in last year, as well as all the fun and games of the tube strike that played havoc with my attendance at BSides London, I made sure I left home very early this morning. In fact, far too early, but nevermind – I knew it would be worth it. Besides, it meant I was in the right place to point Dan Raywood in the correct direction when he arrived.

A short while later I caught up with Sarah Clarke who looked sufficiently different to her Twitter avatar that I didn’t instantly recognise her.

After a quick chat with the aforementioned Mr. Raywood, it was time to head into the main hall for the intro from Simon Hember and the start of the day’s talks.

En route I was able to introduce Sarah to a gang of reprobates (Messrs. Malik, Agnes and Langford) and also grab a couple of pretty cool nail files for the ladies of note in my life.

nail file

After that, we located some seats, via a quick hello to the quickly rising star that is Mo Amin. Next came a full day of talks, and this is what I thought of them:

1. Opening Keynote RANT

The first talk, from Stuart Nolan, certainly raised the bar high and set the tone for the rest of the day. A research magician, his talk focused on robots, mind-reading, body language and the subconscious mind.

Practical exercises helped make several points (at least to those of us who got results šŸ™‚ ) about how predictable us humans can be at times and how that can be taken advantage of.

Stuart concluded that we need to consider topics such as design deception and illusion when building interfaces by highlighting certain qualities built into the latest devices such as the iPhone (with Beats headphones).

A good start to the day.

My rating: 7/10

2. RANT Panel Debate – Analogies Live

As someone who has previously contributed to The Analogies Project, albeit in a small way, I am always keen to hear more.

We had five analogies here, from Dan Raywood’s almost ad libbed review of his journey in to the grandaddy of them all – Van Halen and the brown M&Ms.


The views put forward by the panelist prompted much discussion about the effectiveness of stories as a means of promoting security awareness and as an enabler of training. I just wish more had been made of how we could adopt such an approach and apply it to employee’s tech use at home, something which I believe would encourage buy-in at the workplace.

My rating: 7/10

3. The Psychology of Identity Management

How many identities do you have? One panelist, known as Maria, has four, including poet and a senior position at “a swiss bank”.

Assuming we all have multiple personas, do we want them all rolled into one when entities attempt to classify and identify us?

Maybe not, and thats why the panel were arguing for alternative methods of claiming entitlement, based primarily on social factors.

A thoroughly interesting talk and something a bit different to anything I’ve heard before at a conference.

My rating: 7.5/10

4. Is Privacy Dead? – If So, Why Did You Kill It?

This morning I awoke at 5:30 am which is somewhat earlier than usual (I work until very, very late at night). Therefore, Sarb Sembhi’s look at privacy, sans any interesting slides, was the last thing I needed, especially as we approached lunchtime.

I almost fell asleep.

My rating: 2/10

5. People-Hacking

After Sarb’s talk I was willing the next half hour away so I could grab a bite to eat and some much needed coffee.

With the next speaker being Jenny Radcliffe who I had not heard of before (she was already following me – how embarrassing is that?) I wondered if my heavy eyes would stay open for the duration.

Fortunately, Jenny’s presentation was very, very good indeed.

She spoke about social engineering, how to trick people and gain access or acquire information, often without even visiting the targetĀ location.

As she said so eloquently, it doesn’t matter how good your tech is because she can hack your staff.

My rating: 8/10

Lunch break — my compliments to the chef.

6. Has RANT Got News For You

A reproduction of a classic BBC comedy show featuring some of the top second tier names in infosec. Plus rockstar Javvad Malik.

news for you

I thought this was going to be awesome. I though it would be the highlight of the day. And it was pretty darn good it has to be said.

I think the fact that the audience scored more points than the panelists has to cost it a bit in regard to my own scoring though I’m afraid.

My rating: 7/10

7. Robo-Apocolypse

Stephen Bonner.

Enough said.

My rating: 8/10

8. The Snowden Operation – was the NSA contractor a hero or a traitor?

Edward Lucas, senior editor with The Economist, defintitely seemed to think the latter which I think put him at odds with the majority of the audience.

It was a decent talk to be fair but haven’t we all had enough of Snowden for a while? I know I have.

At least the speaker didn’t try to pimp his ebook on Amazon a couple of times. Or did he? Hmmmm –

My rating: 5/10

9. The Art Of Malware

The awesomeness that is Graham Cluley meant this was another talk I was looking forward to and he didn’t let us down.


Graham gave us some insight into his early life and introduction to computers (ZX81) and programming. We also got to see a quick history of some early malware which, as he said, was definitely far more colourful, interesting and benign than the modern equivalent.

Oh, and he also managed to incorporate a video of 3D Monster Maze into his talk (first computer game I ever played) – awesome!

My rating: 8/10

10. How to Be a Successful Optimist

Mark Stevenson’s “The Big Shift” talk at last year’s event was one of my favourites and this his presentation this year was up to the same standard.

He argues that a culture of innovation and creativity is an essential element for future success, and showed how perserverance is often what separates the successful from the quitters.

My rating: 7.5/10

11. Comedy Speech

I saw a video of Bennett Arron a short while ago and didn’t find it funny so was thinking of leaving before he came on (especially as I had a thumping headache by that time).


I’m glad I stuck around though – his story about how he personally fell victim to identity theft, and how that was only the beginning of his problems – was informative, shocking and genuinely funny.

My rating: 7.5/10


Overall then, I thought the conference was every bit as good as last year. There were a couple of naff talks in my opinion but the overall quality was excellent.

There was no obvious sponsor-driven talk which was a relief after last year. I met several familiar faces and a few new ones.

But which talk was the best of the day?

I had three stick in my mind – those from Stephen Bonner, Graham Cluley and Jenny Radcliffe – and I would like to say its hard to choose between them.

However… I didn’t get any sweets from Stephen’s talk this time around so the shortlist shrinks to two.

Graham is someone I have a lot of time for as he has looked out for me in the past but Jenny just edged it today on account of the fact that her talk was excellent but, far more importantly, she supports LIVERPOOL FC šŸ™‚


Since publishing this post Mr. Stephen Bonner has graciously supplied a virtual Ferrero Rocher –

– which, if I’m honest, is probably far better for my diet than the real thing. So thanks for that!

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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