Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Teesside Digital Forensics Conference

As readers of this blog will know, I spend a lot of my time at Universities talking to forensics students.  I have spoken at Teesside University for the last four years and for the last two years, my company has awarded a cash prize for the best presentation at the annual Teesside Digital Forensics Conference.  This year, the quality of presentations was exceptionally high but the prize for best presentation was won by Louise Purvis who has kindly written a summary of the event and her presentation below:

 "The Teesside Digital Forensics Conference (TDFCon) is an event organised and run by final year Digital Forensics and Forensic Computing students at Teesside University.  The students are responsible for the full organisation of the event, from arranging catering and inviting guests, to creating contingency plans for the day of the event!  In addition to the organisation, students are also required to prepare and present papers, which must last approx. 45 minutes. 

As secretary of the conference, I was very involved with the organisation stages, so when the event received such good feedback from the guests and our course leader it was very pleasing to see many months of hard work and organisation go to plan, especially as it was the last assessment of our final year, and therefore marked the end of our time here at Teesside University.   

We were also incredibly grateful to the guests, who ranged from representatives from HMRC, Trading Standards, Northumbria Police and Teesside Uni. staff and Graduates, who took the time to attend and offer advice and support to the students.  We are obviously also very grateful to David Sullivan for providing the prize for the best presentation.

My presentation was based on my final year project “Online Vulnerability: Identifying Characteristics for Victim Profiling”.  It aimed to identify what it is about a victim that makes them an attractive target to criminals, and what vulnerable areas are preyed upon.  I chose this area after speaking to Arron Martin Zeus Brown, my course leader, as I wanted a project that mattered, and could in the future, potentially make a difference.  There is a noticeable gap in literature in this area, in that much research addresses cybercriminal profiling, but very little is currently available about the victims of cybercrimes.  

After conducting a thorough literature review, the 17 characteristics identified which contributed to vulnerability levels were grouped into four specific categories, namely: Biological, such as gender and age; Psychological, such as human emotions and desires, trust, and impulse; Situational, such as environment, exposure to risk and time spent online, and finally Social, such as lifestyle, education, experience and employment.  All of the aforementioned areas were believed to hold some influence over levels of vulnerability online, as they all contribute to victimization.

My presentation aimed to raise awareness of these areas, as many of them such as trust, are carried out at a subconscious level by an internet user on a daily basis, without fully considering the implications and the risks.  Educating users as to what it is that makes them attractive targets online, as opposed to what the risks are and instructing them what (not) to do online, could be a useful aide against preventing cybercrime.  Those who are aware of such vulnerable behaviours may alter their online activity/behaviour in such a way that they could minimise the risk of being targeted and subsequently becoming a victim.

Winning ‘best presentation’ of the conference came as a complete shock and was totally unexpected, as there were so many good presentations over the two days.  I was just pleased the guests and other students found my presentation interesting, and hopefully took on board the message I was trying to purvey"

Contact Louise

I should add that Louise is actively seeking employment in the field.  For more details about Louise take a look at her Linkedin Profile: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/louise-purvis/20/536/7a or email Louise directly at: louisejpurvis@gmail.com.  

Monday, 16 May 2011

Meaning Of Life

My pal ‘Little Tim’ (he is 6’5 – obviously) always relates everything back to the deeper meaning of life.  He could listen to the Romanian entry at Eurovision and see some deep, hidden meaning behind the lyrics providing a vital lesson to be learnt – a bit like the worst of those dreadful corporate trainers who constantly drone on about ‘learning opportunities’.

Personally, I sway towards the view that seeing depth in Eurovision misses a real ‘laughing opportunity’ and as for the meaning of life, I tend to agree with Charles Schulz when he had his Eureka! moment: ‘I think I’ve discovered the meaning of life – you just hang around until you get used to it’.  Quite...

That said, I have been pondering a few of the deeper questions this week – only briefly I hasten to add – mainly as I have spent most of the last seven days speaking with a seemingly endless stream of unhappy people.  Especially within the computer forensics sector, things seem really tough right now across the board.  In the public sector forensics professionals appear to be under tremendous pressure to hit ever increasing targets with no spare money to be spent on personal development.  In the private sector a number of people I have spoken to are seriously worried about losing their jobs this year.  Moreover, if they do lose their jobs where can they go next as demand appears to have slowed considerably?

This is actually a point that I have discussed with numerous people this week.  I would suggest it isn’t so bad if you are more junior as there are still likely to be some potential positions.  However, if you are an experienced mid-career forensics analyst earning say, £45k, what opportunities are really open to you?  Unless you move to one of the rare management roles, where do you go from here?  Do you need to diversify into a wider Information Security role? A broader Incident response role?  Or will positions arise as the sector continues to evolve?

I don’t have the answers but I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Stating The Obvious

You may find this hard to believe, but there are some incredibly bright and outstanding people working in recruitment who are pushing all the boundaries. Truly amazing, inspirational people. On the other hand, I wonder how some recruiters expect to be taken seriously.

Some of the advice that is passed on in articles and blogs is often so staggeringly obvious you do wonder why they bothered writing them in the first place.  Obviously, other recruiters write with great depth and insight – ahem!! – or so I hear anyway....

I thought of this today having just read a really tedious blog post about not bad-mouthing your current employer as it makes you appear unprofessional at interview.  No kidding. Tell me, do you think there is really anyone out there in our sector who would seriously slate a previous employer?   I wonder what the next blog in this instalment will be about – the importance of chewing when you put food in your mouth?  Or maybe a quick guide to washing your hands....the mind boggles!!

Maybe, like many recruiters, the writer just has too much spare time?  Mind you, in direct contrast, I saw a great article a couple of weeks ago from Mervyn Dinner of Jobsite about people who are always talking about how busy they are on twitter:

Does that remind you of anyone??!  I can certainly think of one or two.....

Anyway, I digress... maybe recruiters were put on this earth to state the obvious?  In that spirit, the David Sullivan Obvious Tip for today is this:

Always post your job title on your LinkedIn/ Facebook and Twitter accounts 

Obvious, right?  I thought so too but apparently not.  I do appreciate that some people in our sectors don’t like to share too much information for security reasons (except, maybe, how busy they are of course), but it is interesting to see the number of specialists in the forensics / electronic disclosure space who contact me about finding a new role and yet they fail to have this information readily displayed on their social media profiles.

As a jobseeker in 2011, it really is vital to make it easy for people to find you (hmmm, I reckon that comfortably qualifies for obvious tip number two)!  Increasingly, I would suggest that Facebook is key to your jobsearch strategy and yet it is amazingly underused for this purpose.  For more information about utilising this tool correctly, have a look at a blog post I wrote a couple of months ago which can be found here.

In my next blog post – which hopefully won’t be quite as rambling and unfocussed – I expect to be announcing some very exciting news.  Ok, when I say very exciting, maybe mildly of interest to one or two people is a better phrase.  Either way, watch this space....

Forensic 4cast Awards

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to cast your vote for the 2011 Forensic 4cast Awards:

The results will be announced at the 2011 Sans Forensic Summit in Austin.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Covering All Bases

Sometimes it is all about covering all bases: combining the best of the old, traditional thinking with new techniques and ideas.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the exciting, high-octane, rock 'n' roll world of the Liberal Democrats (for example, if you haven't seen it, look at Lembit Opik's brief but excruciating Citizen Smith influenced video)....or in recruitment.

I will try to demonstrate this by referencing an interesting thread on Forensic Focus this last week or so where a forensics undergraduate is looking for an industrial placement.  The link is here.

Speaking to computer forensic undergraduates at Universities, it is clear that whereas some Universities offer outstanding guidance on this subject, other students still have no guidance at all.  Due to this clear knowledge gap, I wrote an article last year exploring the techniques needed to find an industrial placement which can be found here.

In response to the thread, the Forensic Focus community has been very generous with advice and offered some really useful information (although some points, as usual, would arguably only have been useful before 1964).  A couple of salient points really struck me from the discussion:

1, The ‘best’ jobs/placements don’t go the the ‘best’ people.

Of course, the really talented students tend to get snapped up pretty quickly by major organisations.  However, in my view, despite the surplus of graduates for the limited jobs available in the area, students should be able to secure a placement/role if they are thorough and professional in their approach to jobseeking.  Why?  In my view, quite simply, most jobseekers are so haphazard in their approach to finding a role that if you are thorough and persistent this gives you a massive advantage.  This is even more apparent at graduate level.

I won’t go through all the basics again, but I am constantly amazed when graduate jobseekers only approach a handful of companies.  Surely, it is just common sense to ensure you cover every single organisation with a forensics presence in the UK?  It is then all about contacting the correct person in the right way – i.e., calling/sending an excellent CV to the most senior person you can find in any company.  In 2011 with all the information publically available, it isn't difficult to locate organisations and people operating in the sector.

This isn’t just a problem at graduate level.  If you think you are an exceptional candidate to work at a company why would you just email your CV to an HR person along with all the other applicants?  Does this demonstrate your qualities for the position above others?  Surely, the key is to take control and speak to the Hiring Manager to stand out from the crowd or if the role is via a recruiter ensure at the very least you meet the recruiter so that they are able to represent you in the best possible manner?

2, Social Media

Even in niche areas like computer forensics/electronic disclosure every aspect of finding a new job is changing.  If you think I am exaggerating the massive changes occurring, take a look at some of the companies at the leading edge of developments in this area such as  http://www.bravenewtalent.com.

Some people in my sectors certainly 'get it' but most jobseekers – whether active or passive – just aren’t utilising social media anywhere near enough.   Being lucky enough to see a job advert for a dream role on some job board/forum is fantastic.  However, how many times has one of your peers secured a role that you had no idea even existed?  How do you they gain access to these roles? The answer, as usual, is surprisingly simple.  Recruiters – whether working directly for an organisation or external (like me) -  increasingly use social media to find people with the skills/experience needed by employers.  Make yourself easy to find!

When all the superfluous is stripped away, the basic rule in looking for a new role is to make it clear to your target audience that you are potentially interested in opportunities.  If you are actively looking for a new role at this time, are you covering the 'old skool' basics thoroughly whilst also utilising new the opportunities presented by social media?