IRISSCON 2018 Recap

I finally made it over to Ireland! It’s quite embarrassing having lived all my life in London that I never did get the chance to hop sooner. But we are where we are, and what better reason to go over than to attend IRISSCON.

At the airport, I was about to board my flight I saw Infosecurity Magazine’s Dan Raywood was also about to board, and we had one of those awkward very British moments where we nodded to each other in acknowledgement but felt we were too far apart to yell anything. This resulted in us exchanging a few gestures, which kind of translated to “Didn’t expect to see you here, let’s have a chat on the other side and share a taxi to IRISSCON.” Although, in hindsight, I realise it may have looked as if we were making gang signs and were going to get into a fist fight once we reached cruising altitude.

Lucky for Dans fists of fury remained in the cabin at all times for the duration of our  RyanAir flight. As we landed, I wish I could say I looked out of the window at the beauty of Dublin, the green meadows, rivers flowing with Guinness, and children singing – but it was just as overcast and rainy as it was in London and I couldn’t see anything other than clouds.

Upon landing in Dublin, I looked for Dan but couldn’t find him. I assumed he may have left before me. On a sidenote, I bump into Dan more times than anyone else at airports whenever I’m flying to conferences. So it’s clear that he’s been tasked by Mi5 to keep an eye on me.

Upon leaving the airport I saw William Lau and his colleague Ming (don’t say it Flash Gordon!). They kindly offered me a coffee and to share a taxi to the hotel we were all staying at once Thom Langford and their colleague Bernadette arrived.

William and Ming… the APT Brothers

Not only was the weather in Dublin terrible, but the traffic was even worse, and it took far longer than it should have to reach the hotel.

Mr Tumble’s long lost twin

Upon checking in, we were walking through the lobby only to bump into Mr Tumble’s smiling twin Andy, making it an unofficial Host Unknown reunion.

Rumours of Host Unknown’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. This is my happy face.

That night our wonderful host Brian Honan (who took one look at me in my suit and said all I was missing was a cane and top hat to complete the leprechaun look) took us all out to dinner to a boxty restaurant where many of the other speakers were in attendence. I do find slight pleasure in seeing my American friends over on this side of the Atlantic looking extremely jet-lagged and incoherent and am glad that its not me for a change.

Dinner at the boxty restaurant

After dinner, there was some socialising back in the hotel. And I do suspect a couple of the speakers were finalising their slides.

The next day, we started off early with breakfast and the opening remarks by our MC Gordon Smith, who did a wonderful job throughout the day. It would be remiss of me to not mention the great work that Cooper  did behind the scenes filming all the talks over the day. The event is a single talk track, and a CTF room – so the audience for the talks remain pretty consistent throughout the day.

Brian Honan kicked things off with a short welcome talk and went over some of the changes over the years. A decade ago the CERT received just under 450 incident reports, while this year it had over 30,000. Quite the jump – a trend which he believes shows no signs of slowing down, so urged more Government participation in security.

Wendy Nather was up next with her keynote which was wonderful as always. I always learn something new from Wendy whenever she gives a presentation and this was no exception. It was particularly focussed around trust and the user experience. It was also the first time I’d heard about Dark Patterns and something I’m quite interested in now.

Next up was Cliona Curley with a sobering talk about what kids were exposed to online these days. I would have paid more attention, but my talk was up next and I was having my B-Rabbit moment trying to hold in Mom’s spaghetti.

I don’t know why I sometimes still get very nervous before a talk. Once I get on stage and start speaking, I am usually fine – it’s just the short time before starting that I really begin to doubt myself and fear that no-one is going to like my talk, or I’ll choke on stage.

Thankfully, no choking occurred, and I think the talk went pretty well. I’m always rather critical of myself, but even Thom said my talk was good! That’s not to say I don’t appreciate other people’s feedback, it’s just that Thom and I have a long-standing tradition of being hyper-critical of each others presentations. Over the years, we’ve spent many hours sharing presentations with each other, trying to refine our messaging and delivery. So, I’m not used to him turning his head slightly as he does and saying, “I thought you did a really good job.”

The rest of the day had some very good talks. Martijn Grooten gave a great talk arond spam. To top it off, it was the first time I’d met Martijn, and he is a wonderfully charming person.

Martijn Grooten

Dave Lewis was on top form as usual, being extremely engaging and informative. Eoin Keary brought home the basics on vulnerability management.

Dave Lewis, happy as always

I could go on, but you get the gist – the whole day was full of fantastic talks and great content. I don’t think there was a single talk that didn’t provide great value.

Unfortunately, I had to leave for the airport earlier than planned because of how bad the traffic in Dublin was, which meant that I missed out on hearing Jack Daniel‘s talk – which from all accounts sounded like it was great.

So with that, just over 30 hours after I’d landed, I was back on a RyanAir flight heading home

It was a fantastic event, and Brian and the rest of the team did a top notch job in arranging it.

Looking forward to next year already!

Happy times with Wendy, Dave, and David