Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why I'd Dress LIke a Cheerleader

Twitter, the Internet’s biggest game of telephone, occasionally yields some interesting material. Yesterday, as an example, Lurene got a tweet that someone was upset about the Saphead’s write up of their work in this year’s DefCon CTF qualifier. The imagery they used to convey their message had a definite sexist overtone, with the only female member of their cartoon team labeled as the “cheerleader” and basically asking a bunch of silly questions in what I would call the “I’m just a girl” tone.

In what is, unfortunately for the edgier side of security, a fairly rare show of class, the Sapheads have apologized and are reworking their (very informative) comic to put the character in a better light. (See here: http://hackerschool.org/DefconCTF/17/B300.html) But the incident got me thinking about how rare superstars are in the world, how lucky a business is to have one walk in their door every day and how crazy one would be to ignore someone based on their race, sexual preference or any other marker not associate with their talent.

The VRT is stacked to the gills with people who fit into a group or, more likely, groups that might be described as “those people” by some members of society. We have men and women, we have people from four different continents, speak multiple languages and in general each of us brings a vastly different background to the table. And that is why every day I hop up, eager to get to work to find out what this menagerie of human talent will cook up.

The reason the comic really caught my eye though, is that some of the most dangerous talent we have here at Sourcefire has the double-X chromosome setup. In fact, when every Macintosh on the Sourcefire network simultaneously rebooted it was Judy who had handcrafted the IPv6 packet that corrupted the network stack. When the Vulnerability Research Team member stepped off the plane in Washington state to talk to a major software development company about how attackers reverse engineer patches into exploits it was Lurene. And it is Sojeong (call me Monica) that has been dropping 0-day non-stop since she has walked in the door of Sourcefire.

The people I work with every day are scary-smart. Your company would kill to have their brains working on your security problems. But the sad fact is that there are people out there that would immediately discount Mr. Zidouemba’s contributions simply based on the color of his skin. Of course, they would never say so to him directly, that would be wrong. But he might not get the opportunities, the slack or the resources that would allow him to truly shine.

In this day and age, I can’t imagine how some management feels that it can compete by only pulling from a pool of people that look, talk and think like them. If you or people in your company feel that women should dress in white, like all other domestic appliances, or that intelligence is somehow related to skin pigment, then your company is in peril. True superstars, with the right mix of talent, drive and business savvy are far too rare to waste over discrimination. We’ll happily take any superstars that attitude drives off; because at Sourcefire, they’ve recognized that it’s worth the effort to work through the accent to get to the genius.

TL;DR: I’ll field an All-Women’s Sourcefire hacker team against any group in the industry and happily sit back in the cheerleader outfit and watch.

P.S. Don’t tell anyone on the team I’ve been saying nice things about them, they’ll think I’ve gone all soft.

4 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! This is honestly the best response I've seen. I do think the "there are no women in security" thing is overblown a little bit. Sure, there are a lot fewer of us, but for every "visible" woman in security, there are 4 (or more!) heads down and working in the trenches. Attitudes won't change until people stop making such a big deal about being "other" and just get the job done - there are many people at the 'ol FIRE who do this on a daily, and it's really neat to see some of these SF superstars called out!

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  2. I would be scurred to go up against that team (:

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  3. Interesting write-up. One that makes me rethink of my IT history lessons. At first programming was a woman's job:
    See: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Eniac.jpg

    Superstars are rare by definition. I really liked the comic and didn't even think about discrimination. - Because the questions aren't stupid. We may think they are. But a lesser sophisticated reader won't.

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  4. I'd pay to watch it, oh, and cheerlead. Although I'd probably wear whatever you told me to. Cause... well, that's how we roll.

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