Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Merry-Go-Round

Thanks guys for inviting me to the party. In return, I will try to share some thoughts until you all get tired of my perspective and style and kick me off this thing. Definitely some interesting topics so far and I plan to study at least one of them well enough to comment intelligently. In the spirit of giving back, I'll go ahead and throw another topic out.

While I find it humorous that I'm doing so, I've spent the better part of the last year trying to help folks new to the Intrusions game get comfortable with cold-box intrusion analysis. I say humorous, because it wasn't all that long ago, in Dave years, that I was scrambling to teach myself how to tackle exams as well as bugging a few good friends and respected colleagues to validate what I thought I knew and straighten me out when I was wrong. When I was learning intrusion analysis, I had the advantage of some pretty extensive criminal examinations and field investigations experience. I've found that understanding what goes into building an investigation with an eye toward prosecution can help in figuring out what a suitable intrusion analysis examination should produce. What I've found most challenging is figuring out ways to relay what I refer to as a "way of thought" to folks who may not have the same perspective I have with regard to an analysis process. This is probably most akin to your Dad or Uncle telling you you're not holding your mouth right when you're baiting a hook, turning a wrench, or tying a knot. So, as I've tried, scratched, thrown away, and forged ideas anew this last year, I've decided that intrusions analysis is most like a merry-go-round.

Great minds and smarter men than me have taught me that the intrusions response process as a whole, of which cold-box analysis is a piece, is a cyclical process. It's almost natural to me that intrusions system analysis is cyclical as well. We basically start with some kind of known, or guess, and go to the unknown. As the unknown, becomes a known, it leads to other unknowns, and so on. I have seen and rode this ride many times. As most of us have, I've chased rabbits down hole after hole, trying to find the nugget (vector, attribution). As I've tried to explain how this can happen, while also working in an environment that leans toward standardization, automation, and desired speed and more speed, I've remembered my short-lived youth on the Jersey Shore where for a time I and my good buds would jump on and off the merry-go-round in a fine arcade establishment. The trick, at least back then, was to time the jumping on and off to coincide with being out of sight of the ride attendant. So, I've concluded that a key aspect of intrusions analysis is knowing where to jump on and when to jump off the beast lest your hard work become irrelevant due to passage of time.
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