An interview with Hackin9 Magazine

Hackin9 Magazine, the industry’s leading IT security magazine, interviewed me about the cyber security issues currently facing the oil and gas industry. Read a portion below:

What are, in your opinion, the biggest cyber security threats nowadays?
Another year has passed and still the arms race between cyber security hackers and the oil and gas industry’s IT departments rages on. Demands to infrastructure are further compounded by the prolific use of mobile devices, the need for workers to be able to connect at different locations and the onset of “BOYD” – Bring Your Own Device – to work. IT Departments must meet the high demands set by their employees while also working to maintain their privacy and the company’s most vital assets.

APTs – Advanced Persistent Threats – remain the biggest cyber security threat to private and public industry. These attacks are highly sophisticated and carefully targeted with the end-goal being to obtain one of an energy company’s most valuable assets – its proprietary information. Many APTs don’t target well-known programs such as Adobe Acrobat. Instead, they target embedded systems, which brings me back to my earlier point of “BYOD” and mobile devices creating vulnerabilities in systems. Hackers will wait for anomalies in your network and then pounce on them.

What topics are you going to cover on Cyber Security for Oil and Gas conference?

The question should be; what won’t we cover? Here’s a rundown of some of the featured sessions: Reducing the power of the hacker and assessing the current capacity in the O&G industry for managing risk; Discussing cyber incident response and the involvement of law enforcement agencies to bolster cyber security support; Hacking critical infrastructure; Protecting against APT malware and much, much more.

What do you think will be the most interesting part of your conference?
Sometimes the best way to fully comprehend any threat to your business is by seeing it from the point-of-view of the attacker. That’s why we’ve brought on board speaker Chris Shipp of DM Petroleum Operations to conduct a live hacking demonstration in an effort to show in-depth practices that can be applied to your own network.

Do you think that enterprises in oil and gas industry are sometimes unaware of their own vulnerabilities?

You don’t know what you don’t know, as they say. However, two things to watch out for are internal threats and vulnerabilities within the cloud. You should think long and hard about how much you trust your employees with your information. Some of the most devastating attacks that go undetected for a long time are internal, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the CERT Insider Threat Center and the U.S. Secret Service. To my second point, most corporations outsource their cloud capabilities, which makes data centers become larger targets for cyber security threats. Have clear guidelines with your provider to prevent attacks.

What are the estimate expenses that Oil & Gas companies spend on their cyber security?
ABI Research estimates that the oil and gas industry will spend up to $1.9 billion on cyber security by 2018. This includes spending on IT networks, industrial control systems and data security; counter measures and policies and procedures.

Do Oil & Gas companies need IT Security specialists more than ever?
Despite being a multi-billion dollar industry trading in one of the world’s highest commodities, the oil and gas industry as a whole still depends on legacy control systems like SCADA. This can’t continue to be the case in the future. James Clapper, the Director of U.S. National Intelligence said the threat of cyberattack is the biggest peril currently facing the U.S. today. What do you think this says about one of the U.S.’s most important industries?

What do you hope to change thanks to your event?
IQPC and Oil & Gas IQ are excited to host a forum where oil and gas industry leaders can discuss how to develop a secure network without exposing their critical corporate data.

See the interview in its entirety at

Sarcasm in content marketing

My marketing team received a very eloquent, middle-fingered response to a content email that was sent in my name. It’s for an event we’re hosting on a very niche topic – dredging in ports. No further introduction needed.

Dear Hannah-

I can’t believe that I failed to respond to your unsolicited email – shame on me!  

As you know, I am a big fan of dredging and reclamation, and ever since I was a little nipper I would brag to my friends about how some day I would dredge and reclaim with the big guys – little did I realize that some day I would actually get a personal email from you inviting me to a real live dredge and reclaim party!  Hannah, thank you so much for looking out for me!   I don’t know how to thank you enough for getting this invite to me – to bring me front and center tomeet and rub army boots with the celebrities and the kings of the world of sludge!

Again, I apologize for losing your email in the white noise of annoying irrelevant and unwanted spam.




Bit By Bit: Bitcoin is the Future of Crypto Currency

Bitcoin has received some heat in the media lately.

In February, Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy after losing $490 million worth of investments and is also facing a lawsuit after a cyber attack brought down their exchange. Further, the CEO of BitInstant was arrested in New York in January for money laundering. BitInstant is also facing a class-action lawsuit from its investors who allege the service was misrepresented to them.

Descriptions for Bitcoin are abysmal. A scam. Destructive. Illegal.

The currency will face an uphill battle to prove its worth – figuratively and literally – to the public and national governments.

“Bitcoin matters because it has governments and major banks scared stiff. It presents a currency that cuts them out of the picture,” writes CNN Money’s Jose Pagliery.

China and Russia have already declared Bitcoin illegal. But, the U.S. government and its private financial institutions are not so sure it should be. Beyond the concern that there is little protection for consumers who trade in Bitcoin, there is reason to be optimistic. Bitcoin allows for the opportunity for private and public sectors alike to capitalize on the ability to easily transfer money across the world without fees or inflation.

“We have finally figured out how to send value over the Internet – faster, cheaper and more securely. We are not going to ‘unlearn’ that,” Jinyoung Englund, spokeswoman for the Bitcoin Foundation, the currency’s top advocate, told Pagliery.

The raucous over New York’s noise levels

Last year I was engaged in a Battle Royale over noise brought on by my neighbor – a hookah bar located directly under my first-floor apartment.

At the time, my roommate and I suffered from the usual naivety of first-time New York apartment renters when we listened to and believed the real estate agent who said there had never been any noise complaints against them.

We moved in on a Monday and slept peacefully for four days. Then Thursday came. At 10 p.m. a torrent of Rihanna’s melodies rose up through the floorboards and an overwhelming sense of dread coupled with bass beats was its undertow.

I was immediately awash in the truth that we had been lied to and were trapped in a wet-inked lease. How could anyone live like this? Our floors and walls vibrated and the dishes in our sink clinked along with every beat of the Thursday – Saturday show time.

Noise is the number one complaint since the 311 helpline was established in 2003, according to amNewYork’s Monday front page article. More than 3.1 million noise complaints have been filed in the past decade. I was among those voices.

I’m not perturbed by sirens, honking or yelling. But, I can’t handle bass during a weeknight. A war was waged on the bar owners and I became an expert in New York sound ordinance codes. Commercial establishments must limit the level of unreasonable noise to 42 decibels as measured from inside nearby residences. To give you an idea, the level of normal conversation is 50 dB(A) and stereos/boom boxes measure 110 dB(A). The next highest level is a jet plane, which clocks in at 130 dB(A).

I also became a prolific dialer and filer of 311 noise complaints. The cops – whose station was located across the street and whose desks were visible from my kitchen window – dutifully followed up with each complaint, but to no avail.

Two of the owners made half-hearted attempts to appease us. They said they would pay to install carpet and would caulk our pipes. They would do anything they could think of that wouldn’t cost them more than $50 and would also therefore be useless.

The other tenants could feel and hear the bass up to the fifth level. We had all become dependent on sleeping pills and wine. I begged the landlord to force them to properly soundproof. Maybe it had been damaged during Hurricane Sandy?

It was clear that they weren’t going to spend the tens of thousands of dollars to do this and it was also clear that if we didn’t vacate we would go insane. The night I found myself on the sidewalk screaming and pointing my finger in the owner’s face I realized the battle was a losing one.

We decided to skip out on the lease and move five streets down to an apartment our friends were vacating. We sent a letter from a lawyer stating they our contract had been breached. Two days before we moved out, I received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection saying they would step in on the matter. It was a major victory.

We still live in our friends’ apartment. The window in my bedroom is single-paned and I can hear people talking on the street and car wheels striking manhole covers. A friend said the street noise reminded him of being in Venezuela. I haven’t called 311 once. The traffic is my lullaby.

Up yours upskirters

I always feel a jolt when I hear that “a girl is asking for it.”

This charge implies a woman deserves what she puts out into the universe—as if she’s procuring sexual harassment or violence. Well, no girl, however short or tight the clothing, deserves that sort of comeuppance.

Don’t get me wrong, I have dressed inappropriately in my day. Not to work or school, but in my private life to social events. Does this mean I am asking for it?

What I’ve found is that no matter what I wear there is no escape from the sexual advances of certain men. Unwanted and unsolicited advances keep rolling in: From the not-so-subtle stares to the out-right cat calls echoing out of cars.

Multiple men have felt they hold the right to grab my butt. I don’t consider this a compliment to my appearance – it’s a side effect of my gender.

I know this because I’ve been chased three times in my life. The first time, I was 17 years-old and walking my two dogs in my hometown of Round Hill, Virginia. I had no makeup on and was wearing gray sweatpants. The second time was in Paris, France. Donning a heavy coat and jeans on a walk to the Metro, a man rolled along beside me in his car catcalling even as I ignored him. When I didn’t react, he took it a step further by pulling over, exiting his car, and running toward me. I ran. The most recent time I was chased was in Vienna, Austria. This time it was two men in a car who jumped the sidewalk curb and touched the nose of their BMW to the building beside me, effectively blocking me in. Again, I turned and ran. I was wearing shorts.

It shouldn’t matter what I was wearing on these occasions, but apparently it does, because none of these times have been as emotionally disruptive as when I was upskirted.

This morning a Masssachussetts court deemed it legal for a man to secretly take a picture underneath a woman’s clothing. The court ruled that “the practice did not violate the law because the women who were photographed while riding Boston public transportation were not nude or partially nude,” according to Haimy Assefa at CNN.

The ruling took me back to a fall day in 2011 when I was searching for winter boots at Tysons Corner Mall in Virginia.

I was wearing a light pink, knee-length dress from J.Crew. If you must know, it was conservative, but I don’t feel I should have to defend that. As I perused the Bloomingdale’s selection, I felt that soft, raw nag of being watched. Although no one curious appeared to be around, the feeling wouldn’t shake and I left to ride the escalator to the top level.

Halfway up the climb, I felt a finger slide along my inner thigh.

I turned to find a young man on the stair below me. He was holding out his phone in his palm.

It was then that I realized he had just taken a picture of my underwear from beneath my skirt. I lunged for his phone, screaming, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

He kept repeating, “no, no, no.” He didn’t speak English. And he didn’t relinquish his phone. I reached up my hand to slap him in his face – but couldn’t muster it.

A mother and her teenager daughter were standing behind us on the escalator. They did nothing. When we reached the top we were all under a shower of my screams, but I felt the screams were trapped inside me because no one reacted.

This man, he didn’t bolt. He watched me scream. Then, he turned and slowly walked away.

In this moment he dwarfed my self-assurance that what had just happened was a violation of my privacy and self respect. When I later recounted my assault to two undercover policemen, it became abundantly clear that my violator had escaped. I wanted to know why he would touch me.

He hadn’t meant to scrape my leg, they said; he just wanted to get his picture without me ever knowing. This man had done it before and he would do it again.

Several people have asked why I didn’t hit him. The only answer to give is that just because he is a bad person doesn’t mean I am. My only regret is that I didn’t stop him. I didn’t try hard enough to confiscate his phone. He is out there now – at the mall or in the airport – preying on other women. I had a chance to stop that, and I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Massachusetts Justice Margot Botsford of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court wrote in her ruling that “A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is ‘partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing.”

Outrage at the ruling has prompted action to change the law. I hope it does without delay.

Upskirting happens and it’s not fair. Hopefully my story will lead ladies to pay attention. Listen to your intuition and your instincts. Be constantly vigilant of your surroundings. Lastly, make an effort to help a screaming woman.

After a while

After a while you learn
the subtle difference
between holding a hand
and chaining a soul

and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises

and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman,
not the grief of a child

and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much

so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can
endure …

That you really are strong…

That you really do have worth…

And you learn and you learn…

With every good-bye, you learn.

- Veronica Shoffstall (1971)

You are so special to me

You are so special to me.

It’s in the signature of grandma’s letters. It’s a phrase reiterated in person and it’s a phrase that resonates after her death.

It’s a phrase to remember her because throughout my life she proved it was true.

I will remember her hands as they stirred through the steps to creamy, homemade fudge in an attempt to satisfy the sweettooth we’ve all inherited.

I will remember her excusing herself from a room of company only to reappear with a slash of bright pink lighting her lips. Always a lady.

I will remember her candor in agreeing Pop Pop was a good looking man — but only when he had hair.

I will remember her hands as never still even after she could no longer sew or write. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

I will remember her hanging laundry from the clothes line behind her house as the wind whipped down from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I will remember last spring when she hobbled out to her vegetable garden, and having been dissatisfied with its state, bending down and weeding it herself.

I will remember the last time we sat on her porch on a beautiful spring day and her instructing me to listen to the birds, slow down and hear God.

I will remember her telling me that this is my life to live after I had decided to move to New York and was coming to terms with the real possibility that she could pass away without a goodbye.

I will remember her belief that I will return to Virginia because it’s where I came from.

I will remember her summoning the strength to whisper for the last time that she is proud of me.

I will remember thanking her for setting an example of how to live my life as a woman and as a Christian. And, I will remember when she could no longer speak, that I was able to say for her:

You are so special to me.