I vaguely recall seeing a bright-eyed young woman running around during Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco brandishing a bright yellow cape and telling everyone how proud she was to have won it for her social media interaction during the day. I felt proud of her for being so excited about it and having the courage to show off something bright like that which seemed to attract all kinds of attention. And now, almost five years later, I know who Zoë Rose is and the story behind that cape and so much more.
Heads or Tails?
I first invited Zoë to take part in Security Field Day last December. She came highly recommended and I could remember her Twitter handle as the Yellow Cape Girl. I was happy to see how growing and becoming and important voice in the security community. She seemed to have a knack for presentation so she was asked to take part in our Ignite Security Field Day discussions. Here’s the talk that she gave on the Tails Live USB Linux distribution:
I knew the basic outline of what Zoë was going to speak about, but I was absolutely floored at the way she wove the discussion into her own story about escaping an abusive relationship and finding a home in the security community. Listening to Zoë talk about how hard it was for her to seek resources to pull herself from her situation and how we needed to encourage others to do the same put a very personal touch on something we often take for granted in technology. While we may see an app as simply quaint or interesting others can see it as empowering or repressive. Different people may see a program like Signal as a lifeline for communication or as a way to circumvent rules and seek unwanted independence.
I walked away from Zoë’s talk with a renewed sense of how hard it is for people to take the first steps toward changing their unwanted situations. Sometimes they really can’t see the forest for the trees. Zoë’s advice on how to help and encourage those that need it the most was invaluable in helping me recognize situations like this. Thankfully I haven’t had to personally distribute Tails to anyone I know yet, but I know that with Zoë’s guidance I’ll be able to make the right call when that time comes.
A Security Atmosphere
Flash forward to this year, 2019. When we started planning Mobility Field Day Exclusive at Aruba Atmosphere we spoke with the great team at Aruba about some of the things there were doing. One of those things was Aruba HER: Hear, Engage, Relate. Aruba wanted to talk about more than just wireless and networking. They wanted to reach out to people on a different level and try to help the attendees see a different side of the personal aspects of technology. It was a bold decision, spearheaded by Janice Le.
Aruba asked us if we knew of anyone that would be good to be a part of Aruba HER. I immediately flashed back to the Ignite Talk that Zoë gave at Security Field Day. From that point forward, the magic really happened. Aruba and Zoë got together and decided her story of her journey was powerful enough to be told in a longer keynote for Aruba HER.
This longer video really talks more about the struggles that Zoë endured but expands on how the Infosec community helped her realize how to get out of a place she didn’t want to be and how to use that knowledge to make a career for herself. Just hearing how she embraced learning about security concepts as she applied them to her own life reminds us all that everything we do has consequences and can provide peace of mind for people.
As well, Zoë doesn’t just want to tell us what her journey looked like. She also wants us to help others on their journey too. I especially liked her ABCs of security – Additional Security Controls to ensure you’re not sharing information you shouldn’t be through unneeded or unwanted apps, Beneficial methods of communication and limiting the number of them to make sure you’re not spread too thin and opening yourself up to something, and lastly making a Conscious decision to be a part of a group and not share too much with them in order to avoid exposing too much information.
Zoë’s story is unique to her but the pieces of it are things we see in other people as well. Situations that can lead to bad scenarios. Battling personal demons and understanding that we are good enough and worthy enough to purse those things we want to do and be better at. Understanding that every choice we make also has consequences, whether it’s making the tough decision to go it alone or just realizing posting your child’s sports trophy can give away more information to potential attacks that you don’t want them to have.
Bringing It All Together
I learned a lot from Zoë Rose in the past few months. I learned that everyone has a story about their journey. Some aren’t as bright as we would like them to be. Others find their own happiness through empowerment and a community that helps them grow. Still others find that sense of self-worth from helping their community with projects like Tails or by standing in front of a crowd to share what your journey looks like to help others with their own decisions and path.