How to Think (About Complex Adversarial Systems)

It's possible to approach security as a series of one-off technical problems to solve in series (from either the attacker or defender perspective). While this can often help you find and fix specific bugs, it's not particularly useful for either securing or attacking an organization at scale, and tends to fail badly when you attempt to interact with humans. Everyone who works in security finds patterns in their work, and scaling up and orchestrating interactions with those patterns is a large part of how we make progress.

We rarely talk about the larger structures of these patterns, though, and, being of a practical bent, often try to turn back to practice too quickly -- hence much of e.g. the lackluster discourse around threat modeling. In this talk, I'll look into some of the things I've noticed about how to think that may be useful for security practitioners of all stripes.


Eleanor Saitta Independent Security Architecture and Strategy Consultant,

Eleanor Saitta is an independent security architecture and strategy consultant with media, finance, healthcare, infrastructure, and software clients across the US and Europe. She was previously the security architect for Etsy.com, and has worked for a number of commercial consultancies (Bishop Fox, IOACtive, and others) over the past fifteen years. Her work has encompassed everything from core security engineering and architecture work for Fortune 50 software firms to cross-domain security for news organizations and NGOs targeted by nation states. Her focus is on the ways task and experience design, system architecture, development process change, and operational changes can shift the balance of power between adversaries to bring better outcomes to users.

Saitta is a co-founder and developer for Trike, an open source threat modeling methodology and tool which partially automates the art of security analysis and has contributed to the Briar and Mailpile secure messaging projects. She's on the advisory boards of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the International Modern Media Institute, and the Calyx Institute, all organizations that look at freedom in the media and security online. Saitta is a regular speaker at industry conferences; past venues include O'Reilly Velocity, KiwiCon, ToorCon, CCC, Hack in The Box, and HOPE, among others. You can find her on twitter as @dymaxion, and at https://dymaxion.org