Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Bright Future Ahead
some weeks ago i was invited to talk at an austrian highschool, to a class of 18 year olds, about.. me. odd right? thing is, it were mostly girls in there and their teacher thought it would be a good idea to present them a -kindof- different perspective of future. and honestly, before that i didn't think i would ever serve as example for others. i'm not usually stepping up and taking a stage unless i'm asked to do so. then having all these big eyes on me.. unsettling. but not only after the talk i understood what it was actually about. never i was like 'i am a woman and can do cool stuff'. it was 'i do cool stuff. you should too.' you can figure out later that this is unusual for a girl, if you need to.
it in fact is easy to talk passionately about something you seriously think is cool. so thinking back that was the most fun talk i've given so far. about how i decided to study computer science, or why i started as a malware analyst, opportunities and obstacles, future plans and on how to choose ones dreams carefully.
HOW ONE DECIDES TO BECOME MALWARE ANALYST
honestly, it sounded like a cool idea. after studying information security none of the other options looked appealing, thinking back i can't even remember what they were about. so i started on a malware analysis project for my thesis and later got a job at our local anti-virus company.
now, 3 years later, what to say - i'm happy. i'm free and independent, love what i'm doing and got so many possibilities...
that screenshot you can see on slide number three shows IDA Pro, by far the most powerful and also my favorite tool in my analysis lab. i know, at first sight it looks terrible, but wait, could you believe that i had such a good time with IDA Pro inside a number of binaries; way more than i ever had using.. MS Visio? or Adobe InDesign? all a question of perception.
reversing is like building puzzles. a binary a big black box at first, but i promise as long as you don't give up you will reveal secret after secret and eventually end up with an 'UHH i understand this now'. once you have more practise you will experience more success in a day than most professional artists seem to have all their career long. true story. because every little 'uh i understand this now' feels awesome. reversing looks to me as an art on its own, but a determinable one. and one that, on average, pays better.
a binary can just only work a certain way. even the sophisticated advanced ones are never as complicated as dealing with humans. there is always a solution for any problem.
A QUESTION OF PERCEPTION
i think, a lot of technological studies have questionable reputation - because they are perceived the wrong way. economy, philosophy, politics, multi media design and therelike are topics that a first world human being experiences every day. processor design, electrical engineering, structured programming or mathematical equations just don't appear, ever, outside of a classroom or a lab. ordinary humans tend to fear the unknown. so why would a youngster, especially a female one whos not even supposed to like tech, out of the blue decide he, or she, wants to understand machine level code?
a similar thought on talent. we are successful in things that we are good at. we are goon in things that we practise. i believe in practise, more than in natural talent. but we all practise a lot what we like, and we tend to like things that we are good in. which, if you think about it, is a circle of like - practise - like more - be genius - practise more.
so concluding, what do you think you're good at - and are you sure there's nothing else? i did my own case study on that theory, unintentionally. when i was 17 i did my driving license exam, and i was terrible in parking cars. i somehow made it through that exam and decided i would just never park anything again unless it was unavoidable. then i went on to university, public transport was sparse, but so were the parking spaces around the campus. and every year it seemed there were more and more cars and parking lots would become smaller and smaller. so my situation was clear, park that small car of mine into ridiculous corners or walk a long distance to the campus. finally, i rather learned to park than to walk...
beautiful end, after 5 years of ridiculous daily parking i figured i could fit my renault into any space that was just an inch bigger than the renault itself.
so again, do you think there is something you are not good in, and are you sure you don't want to change that? free after einstein, saying something is too complicated just means you don't understand it well enough. plus back to the ladies. driving cars is not a male talent; i'm SURE they just practised harder. i wonder how many females actually did get an electric toy car at age 3. like my older brother did.
CLOSING THE GAP
now finally, let me get back to the binaries. why become a malware analyst, if you still don't like binary, is actually easy. more jobs, more money, faster career, more freedom. and if you have money and freedom, you are actually more likely to get what you want after all. go figure.
apart from that, you will have fun trust me. you will receive ridiculous appreciation, for doing something that others, even men, are afraid of because they just don't understand it well enough. you will very often stand out and be better than others, because reverse engineering like most engineering fields just doesn't have so much competition going on like.. marketing. thereafter, you will experience less discrimination as in competitive fields. you will meet a number of very bright and interesting personalities, which is within the most beautiful aspects of this job. you will face an incredible diversity of people and tasks and lots of neverending challenges that remodel your own personality.
so now, if your fingers are already burning, i added some links in the slide set above where you will find homework. if you're still scared, contact me and i will help.
but if you're still not sure what to dream about - as long as you define your success by your own achievements you should be fine. when looking back and finding there is nothing to regret, you did something right.
closing this post i want to quote a card my brother (!) has lying around in his car (!).
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.