Author has written 5 stories for Harry Potter.
The True Saga of the Carnie… strike that… the True Saga of the Deer. This is not of my romance life, although that Saga could use a great deal of corrections, but one of my professional life.
The trigger of this Saga happened tonight. I was buying dinner for an old friend and co-worker of mine and his mother. His name is Jessie and he suffers from Social … abnormalities. The Medical term is Asperger. However, I tend to view it not as a disability but a social awkwardness. After all, if you ask yourself, what’s normal, then you discover that normal is just perception and perception is just an illusion of falsehood. Similar to the outright falsehood of the first Saga of the Deer. See how I snuck that in there. :-) So…. I’m having dinner with Jessie and his Mom and it reminded me of where and when I first met Jessie.
Four years ago - I was at the bottom… the very bottom. I was getting a divorced, the woman I was carrying a torch for was… hmm, let’s leave that for another Saga for another day. Anyway, I had just gotten this new job working Network Security. Network Security was sort of like the popular girl in High School that you secretly crushed for but never could get a date with. I had tried numerous, numerous times to get into Network Security but was always told they were looking for someone with experience. Without it, you never get that fantasy prom date of a job. However, by sheer dumb luck I was offered a Network Security job as a contractor at Social Security Administration. The job was a cheap contractor’s idea of hiring a bunch of nobodies with zero experience for half the going rate, train them as they saw fit, all the while charging the government the full price of a Network Security Analyst and pocketing the difference. The truth is the Prom Queen was taking anybody on a date to make the Popular kid and the High School Quarterback jealous. The thing to remember here is I was at the bottom, rock bottom. I took the date.
I literally had only one future. Either I become successful at Network Security or I needed to get a Truck Drivers license and disappear for the next 20 years on the nations highway. This is when I was introduced to Jessie and his Uncle. Jessie was awkward, a bit shy at first, and not very trusting of strangers. Completely understandable, people in general are not very nice when you don’t fit the “Normal”. Jessie’s Uncle, Glenn, on the other hand was a nerdy salty IT guy. He had been working Network Security since the inception of Al Gore’s Internet. He was a Firewall guy, he was a Snort IDS guy, he was a Unix guy… he was the guy. It doesn’t take a Psychologist to figure out if you want to be the best you better learn from the best. Glenn was oozing knowledge that I needed and he was my first Trainer. I learned. I learned because I had no dates, no future, nothing but hope. I took notes, I followed how he did things, I read security literature, I stayed late, and I experimented with the Security tools that I had to work with.
The new kids today have Security Tools that will spit out the malware, when it was infected and who was infected. We call that “spoon-feed”. Great and wonderful if the Security tools has an exact copy of the previously identified malware. The problem is Hackers and Black Hats and Cyber-Criminals are a bit smarter than you think. They alter the code, they disguise the delivery files, they change up the payload server, and they adapt. Making the spoon-fed Security tools late for the party. You want to be good, then you learn in real time.
The problem I was having is the same problem every Network Security person has. A mountain of network traffic logs to shift through. In each event, you have Time, Source IP address, Destination IP address, file name, http status code, file size, port number, country code, HTTP method (Get, Delete, Post), and that’s just the beginning. This very website has already generated over 5 to 10 events on your computer. Just reading a simple legitimate webpage has generated that many events. Now add in a few hours of surfing the internet to find those 4 or 5 events that are malicious out of tens of thousand of legitimate traffic. Needle in a flipping barn of haystacks.
At the time, I was working at Social Security a very dangerous and malicious botnet called Zeus or as McAfee and Kaspersky called it a “Z-bot” was running rampant across the Internet. Basically, it was a dangerous botnet made by Hamza Bendelladj, known as Bx1. At the time, I didn’t know who Bendelladj was. All I knew was the creator, Bx1, had created this botnet malware and sold it out before announcing his retirement. The malware could be bought by organized crime, repackaged, and deployed to steal millions. Add to that the Social Security Administration is filled with non-fireable union government employees who surfed the Internet. I had job security if I could stop the malware.
By now, I had researched every Intelligence article I could find with little to no help. If only I could see the actual malware, the actual files. I couldn’t see them. The files were encrypted. I needed those files. I needed to understand what they looked like, how big they were, and what they did. I needed to know fast as for three months I hadn’t really found anything of value. All I had been doing was learning and hoping.
This is the moment, I really met Jessie for the first time. Jessie may be Socially awkward, but the man is a Rain Man savant of Network Security Intelligence. Remember earlier when I said I read Security literature… I just read them, Jessie remembers them. He lives it. The man would send an urgent email to his boss that the bathroom was out of toilet paper or the printer needs more paper. He would also remember hackers’ favorite pre-shared passwords for encrypted PCAP files. He took the encrypted file that I had spotted from Russia and he broke the encryption.
Oh yeah, queue the violins and open heaven’s gate.
Jessie had given me the keys to the kingdom and I used them. I was targeting every single variation, every single class of Z-bots that they threw at us. This awakening lead to other malware discoveries. I was reporting them wholesale as the first or second finder to Kaspersky, McAfee, MicroTrend, BlueCoat, and Sophos. I was so good and trusted that I could report them before 10am and they would be pushing out the new Anti-virus DAT files by 5pm. When I saying pushing them out, I mean to the world. Every server and every computer using anti-virus would be updated with my findings and what to look for. I was stopping the cyber-crime not just at Social Security but the World. I was so trusted that I could report a website as Malicious and AV companies would block them globally. (I had a small character slip by reporting my Step-Brother’s company website as malicious. Just a day… I changed it back. I’m not proud of it.)
Naturally, knowing me as well as you do. My faults with dealing with success, brought forth arrogance, and with arrogance ultimately always comes failure. (Or as I like to call it – a Hillary) Jessie and I were racking up more Malware tickets than all of Baltimore HQ and Raleigh Security team combined. Jessie and I were killing it as we beat out over 15 personnel. They had Analysts who literally couldn’t find Malware at all. (One in fact became a Federal employee and is now running their SOC. She couldn’t spot malware to save her ass and probably still can’t.) They even complained that I needed to hand over some of my malware finds to the other team members. I reluctantly did, but I was an ass. I reminded all of them who found it. At the end, I was even getting more malware tickets in Social Security than ever before. I was also an arrogant ass who refused to do the mundane lesser daily work that my co-workers did. I bragged out loud that, “I hunt Tuna, let them hunt the small bottom fish.”
Yeah, I said those exact words aloud.
Needless to say, a life lesson was about to happen and it did. A jealous co-worker put out a bogus email that I was uncooperative (true) and threating to her (untrue). My Supervisor was tired of my antics of arguing with them that this or that computer was infected and he needed to check again. (By the way, Jessie proved a few months after I left that it was indeed infected. HA!) My Supervisor told the Contractor Executive who then told me that he didn’t care how good I was or how hard I worked that I’m just not worth it. By not worth it, he meant I was let go. It didn’t matter if the co-workers story was true or not, because they didn’t care either way. I was a pain and they laid me off. A few months later they laid off Glenn and shortly thereafter they laid off Jessie.
Perception is just an illusion of falsehood. I was the best at my job and I was laid off. There are no such words as Irreplaceable. A fact that I’ve never forgotten at work or in cough, relationships, cough. My silver lining at the time, was it didn’t really matter at that point when I got laid off. I had made a name for myself and I had two job offers. I immediately took the better one as the new Lead Security Analyst at the Library of Congress. I also took a better understanding of myself and what “Normal” is.
I remembered all of that as I bought dinner for Jessie and his Mom tonight. I’m very humble and grateful that a Socially Awkward friend and his Uncle helped me when I needed it the most.