About Cheryl Biswas

Writer, reader, techie, Trekkie. InfoSec and political analyst. Keeping our world safe one byte at a time.

Tactical Edge Virtual Event 02/15/2020


I had a great time as a presenter on the Tactical Edge virtual event, sharing scary stories about IoT risks and attacks. This was a terrific and relaxed format, with Ed Rojas using his expert podcasting and interpersonal skills to engage each of the speakers in conversations on a range of topics. The virtual format made this affordable and accessible for the attendees, as the price was free and there was no travel involved. Perfect for students and those with no travel budgets and the learning opportunity – wow!

Presentations included:

Wolfgang Goerhlich on Zero Trust

Cheryl Biswas (me) on attacking enterprise networks via IoT

Timothy de Block on Agile security teams

John Svazic and gamifying tabletop exercises

Adrian Sanabria on dwell time by attackers in networks

Andrea Little Limbago on the global factors driving data protection


 Join me next for the Diana Initiative Leap Day event on Saturday Feb 29 at 11:00 est

ShmooCon 2020

I just got back from another great year at ShmooCon. While technically it is an information security conference, it’s a hacker con in the best sense of the term, a gathering of our friends and hacker family. We live, laugh, learn and love. We spend a lot of time working remote or facing screens, so it’s these special moments when we get actual face time that we can connect, talk long and late into the night, and come away feeling recharged.

Hackers are the most generous and caring people I know. There was a terrific event to support Mental Health Hackers early Saturday night with a big turnout and outpouring of generosity by those attending. It was great to meet some new people there and hug some dear friends. Thank you to Ray Redacted for organizing it, to Amanda Berlin for making this organization to create awareness and support, and to some very generous donors.

Hackers bond well over food and libations, and there were some great meet and eats. Things wrapped up with a grand Sunday brunch and a tableful of great conversations with Chris Kubecka, Helen Negre, Jim Troutman, “SniperBarbie” among others.

Shmoo is a rare time when I am an attendee only, so I indulge my love of learning and take in all the talks I want to see because some of the most cutting-edge and challenging talks are presented here. It’s a feast for my mind and I never leave hungry.

Some talks on my list:

A Firetalk by Jim Troutman on DNS and all we don’t really know. This talk won first prize this year out of all six excellent firetalks. There was so much useful info about where we are exposed and many helpful mitigations for more secure setups.

“Hack the Stars”. All about satellites, their vulnerabilities, juicy targets, so much data in the clear. Space debris and stuff that keeps me up at night. Scary good!

SBOM. A talk on why we need a software bill of materials legislated and enforced in healthcare by Josh Corman and Audie. Because time is a matter of life and death in healthcare. Supply chain, upstream dependencies, lack of visibility. The impact from exploit doesn’t stop at one hop.

ūüéĄ My Holiday Wish ūüéĄ

Five years ago I changed course, changed my life, and discovered this community. It has been an incredible journey, and there is still so much more ahead to learn and explore. My holiday wish is not for me but for you all, this community and the people here I have come to know. I want to give you the gift in my heart, appreciation and gratitude for finding welcome and purpose here, the sense of wonder for what you know and share, delight in how each of you shine so distinctly like beautiful stars to light my tree.

You may not see this, but I do. You may not believe in yourself and your abilities, but I do. And I watch with wonder and delight as you share your discoveries online for others to learn from; as you reach for that next bar, one rung higher, and go after your goals be they OSCP, giving a talk, literally and figuratively learning to fly. I soar along with you in that vast expanse of clear blue sky, limitless in its possibilities.

I feel your words and hurt along with you when you are brave enough and open to share your pain and loss. I wish for your comfort and healing, conveying support in emojis and 140 characters but giving all the hugs and love I can when we get to meet up in real life. Because those times together are precious gifts, where we get to build friendships and strengthen those bonds.

So many of you have enriched my life in ways you cannot know, and opened doors for me so that I can learn, grow and keep exploring. You inspire me with your ideas and passion, so that I follow your threads and read your blogs to learn from you, with you. Your words push me to keep trying, to look deeper. You fill my heart with your compassion and care for others, recognizing the basic needs of others here, calling out wrongs and standing up for rights.

My wish is to honour you by paying it forward, seeking ways to help others find their way here, to lift up those around me so they can soar and then cheering you on until I am hoarse. I wish for you to follow your dreams and believe that you are more than good enough to go after what you want. You make a difference because you are here.

WISP org and scholarship winners

I will follow this up on Twitter and try to share as many handles of you as I can for a list of the wonderful guiding lights you are. ‚̧ԳŹ

I would also like to personally thank and celebrate the wonderful people who are the founders, staff and volunteers at The Diana Initiative. I am so blessed to get to work along with you to make this event happen, and to support and encourage women in this amazing field.

Finally, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to those who have stood by me when the road was rocky, who rescued me to my first ShmooCon, encouraged me to submit my first talk, welcomed me at my first hacker con at Circle City. You know who you are and your love and friendship has carried me here. <333

I wish you all a very happy holiday however you are celebrating today, and may you have the love of friends and family to make this time warm and wonderful. You are the lights on my tree and the hope in my heart. Love and peace!

InfoSec Women: Leaders and In Charge

There was a recent twitter thread asking for a list of women-owned or led InfoSec businesses. I’m capturing that valuable content to share and signal-boost here. These are leaders, builders, breakers and change-makers. I have so much respect for all of them!

This list is by no means complete and I apologize for any oversights. Please help me continue to build it to share forward.

Diversity, Equality, & The Diana Initiative 2019: What We Can Achieve Together


It’s the constant question: what it will take to fill all the empty roles in cyber security? And the ongoing challenge to gain a strategic advantage as adversaries continue to up-the-game in tech and tactics. Let’s start here. Draw a bigger circle. Invite people in who don’t conform with traditional requirements because what we’ve been doing isn’t getting things done. Different experiences, cultures, backgrounds – these expand our field of vision in terms of understanding by widening the lens we see through. We need to look beyond what we expect to see to find what we’ve been looking for. The fact is, we con’t know what we don’t know – but you can bet there is someone out there who does. Have we opened the door to let them in?

There has been growing realization and appreciation for what collaboration and communication bring. Just look at the power of fusion groups, or when various international law enforcement agencies work together to take down dark web markets. Let’s talk about synergy, when two or more entities combine to create a result that is greater than the sum of their individual efforts. We’re limiting our potential when we set limits on others. You can hear my thoughts on this episode of the Insecurity Podcast by Cylance.¬† Here’s some basic definitions to get us started.

Diversity:¬† reflects the full spectrum of human differences to include race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious beliefs, ethical values, national origin, political preferences and more. It’s time that panels, workplaces, boards reflected everyone in our society and on the basis of merit.

Inclusion:¬† ensures there is involvement and encourages empowerment, to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all. A sense of belonging is promoted and nurtured; respect is shown for everyone’s values and practices, talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living.¬†It’s time to stop discarding people and ideas because we don’t like how they are different.

Equality:¬† ensures that individuals or groups of individuals are not treated differently or less favourably because of their race, gender, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation and/or age. Think “Equal pay for equal work” and no more glass ceilings.

blackhatlogoI am excited and honored to have been invited by Salesforce as a speaker at their feature event at BlackHat this August,¬† “How to Make Equality a Priority in the Security Industry”. I aim to carry forward what’s been said by those in our security community, to represent and respect.


Go ahead – ask me how proud, how excited I am to be part of¬†¬†The Diana Initiative¬† (TDI).¬†We’re back for our third year in Vegas, right in the midst of all that is Hacker Summer Camp.

Yes! Everyone is welcome. We’re about inclusion and diversity. Let’s do a quick refresh on what those mean.

For those who don’t know what got us here, this is us:


Yes! You can still register online to come. At only $30 it’s a bargain, but you have to register to attend.¬†

TDI is a smaller, comfortable, less-intense version of the big conferences going on around us, set in its own oasis at the Westin Las Vegas, just a short walk down from the Strip where Defcon is being held. This year we’ve gone above and beyond to offer all the good stuff attendees hope for:

Talks & Trainings.¬†This speaker list is a wishlist of topics and expertise! Three tracks featuring technical and non-technical talks, as well as a separate training track. Outstanding contributors who’ve got amazing ideas and insights to share in a smaller, more intimate venue that will encourage and inspire some great conversations after.


CTF. Yes! In response to popular demand, we are having our first-ever capture the flag (CTF) event, involving some of the coolest, brightest folks in our community to plan it all out. We even have a CTF 4N00BZ training because everyone has to start somewhere, and this is an encouraging and supportive environment to make sure you do! This one you have to register for in advance and it’s FREE.

earringsLockpick Village:¬†If you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a treat. From experience (really!) it is a life-skill, especially when you leave your keys 700 miles away and discover that at 2:00 am. It also brings people together as they share the fun of learning a new skill together, and encourage each other. It’s FREE. Plus, you can buy the picks and some fabulous lockpick earrings while there.

Soldering Village: Ohhh who does not love blinky badges?! You can learn how to make your own at our Soldering Village. We have a terrific instructor who will walk you through the process, set you up with the tools and supplies, and help you make your very own keepsake badge.

Career Village: Opportunities abound. TDI has always been about networking and mentoring. Attendees can meet with professionals to have their resumes reviewed, schedule a mock interview to gain interview skills, and meet in-person with company representatives who are hiring.


Let me leave you with this. I was recently a guest on the InSecurity Podcast by Cylance with Matt Stephenson, where we had a candid conversation about diversity and equality, how far we’ve come and the distance left to go. Have a listen and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. When it comes to making the changes we need in diversity, inclusion and equality, there’s a lot more to be said and done and our journey is just getting underway.


Yes you can! Submitting an InfoSec CFP

We all needed this page at one point. Or more. I know I did and thank you to the people in our community who had stuff like this for me to find. I‚Äôm adding recent updates from great community members. The fact is I have learned so much from all of your talks, and I would love to learn more. My turn to pay it forward so that you will have your turn at the podium.¬†ūüėä

‚ÄúDo that thing which scares you‚ÄĚ

Why talk? Why not just write or post? Well, a talk is more than just words on a screen. We get to see and hear your passion, which elevates your concept to another level. And we get to see ‚Äď you! In a community of introverts, facetime is powerful. We love to learn by watching videos of talks given. Like yours. The other plus is that you get to attend a Con, which if you have read any of my posts, is both incentive and reward.

I know. It seems so difficult. Feels so scary. But the best advice I can give you as you start out is this:  give a talk. You may be able to start small, with a local meetup group. Someplace you feel comfortable, where you can talk for 20 minutes or more, on something you are excited to share and would love to explain. Okay. Pep talk over. You are good enough, smart enough and one of us. We want to hear what you have to say and we are willing to help you do it. Go for it!

Timing is Everything

There are many CFP or Call for Presentations opportunities throughout the year, although most are familiar with the flurry of activity around March/April for Black Hat/Defcon/BSidesLV/Diana Initiative.  Deadlines can be 5 months or more before the Conference takes place meaning deadlines and due dates need to be tracked. Get out your wall calendar and start marking it up now. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

Where to Start

Where to even begin? Here. So relax and just start by reading to see what it is all about. There are people to reach out to in our community if you want to do this, including me.

Watch the videos of past presenters from where you want to speak. Or those who talk about what you want to talk about. Know what has already been covered so you can bring something new. Or get a sense of what is trending. Plus, you can see how people deliver a talk. How slidedecks are put together. What humour works. Check out talks on this site: http://www.irongeek.com . Adrian Crenshaw has recorded talks at many conferences. You’ll find good stuff here. And there are still talks on YouTube.

Is this your first time? Don’t be shy. We all had a first talk. BSidesLV offers Proving Ground, a fantastic program at the start of their CFP phase to invite new speakers and pair them with a mentor. I know. That is how I started and it was amazing. Even better are the relationships you build here which carry forward, along with the learning. Because InfoSec is a community and our strength is in our people. Now I mentor and learn so much from my mentees. Total win-win. Learn more here: https://bsideslv.org

The Diana Initiative¬†offered mentoring for CFP submitters this year after first round selections. I was one of the mentors, and all three of my mentees actively worked with me, revised their original submissions and were accepted. Way to go!! Your idea is a diamond in the rough ‚Äď mentoring helps give it that polish to shine in all its glory.

How To List

I am basing this on a terrific resource made available to our Diana speakers this year by Circuit Swan, who is actively involved in a number of events and has critically evaluated many submissions.

  • Titles matter. Avoid buzzwords, keep it short, test it out on folks. You need to make sure it says what your talk is about.
  • Abstracts market your piece. This is the short and interesting blurb we all want to read in con schedules and programs to decide what we cannot miss. You need to catch people‚Äôs attention to get them as attendees. Your abstract should clearly state
    • what you are talking about
    • why you are giving this talk
    • who your target audience is
    • what takeways attendees will leave with (yes, candy can be included here)
  • Outlines are everything. This must be so much more than just bullet points and random cliches thrown together. This is where you demonstrate not only your subject matter knowledge, but your commitment to deliver something worthy of your audience‚Äôs time and attention.
    • Walk the reviewers through your topic from beginning to end in an orderly fashion.
    • Start with an Intro, then work your way through each section of your talk with main points, examples, demos, and takeaways or learning points for attendees.
    • Don‚Äôt forget your conclusion and Q&A portion.
    • Then, ADD in how much time you estimate each main section will take. Intros should be short, with one slide about you that will not take more than a minute at most to present.
    • Go back and re-read the submission requirements to make sure you followed the rules. Blind submissions do not want you to reveal yourself so leave your name, workplace, online persona and any identifying details out unless explicitly asked for.
    • Take care. Go over everything and check spelling, formatting, any acronyms that are not spelled out in full.

Want to see a good example to work from? Check out this sample submission from ShmooCon.

Great Online Resources

Kat Sweet has both given talks and evaluated them. Trust her. She is friendly, so smart, and very good at talks. Great starting place.

Hacks4Pancakes is a wonderful resource for our community. Her guidance is true, and if you don’t know her blog, then let’s correct that right now. She has given and evaluated talks, and shares the wisdom of her experience at Tisiphone.net.

Daniel Miessler recommends what you need to know about putting together a good talk. It starts with an idea that develops far beyond words on a page. You want to make sure you know about format, deadlines, requirements etc.

Nikita weighs in on Defcon hopefuls. Now you are ready to hear the hard truth. Let’s make that paper stand out in a sea of submissions. You can be among the chosen, but only if you make your talk worthy.

‚ÄúNew Year wish list of an Infosec Conference Content Reviewer‚Ä̬†Kymberlee Price 2017. Kymberlee has reviewed submissions for KasperskySAS and is on the content review board for Black Hat, among others. This is her wishlist as a reviewer, and very helpful.

2016/03/30/ How to get your talk accepted at Black Hat.  Why not aim high? Here are some suggestions to help you get noticed from one of the top-tier conferences, and Stefano Zanero, attendee and reviewer.

The Growing Threat of Botnets & Cryptominers

On Friday June 7, I had the pleasure of being invited back a second time to speak students in the cybersecurity program at Sheridan College’s Faculty of Applied Science and Technology.¬† This is such a great way to encourage the next generation, to give back to our security community, and I honestly think I’m the one who learned more from the students in our fun discussions afterward! Thank you so very much for asking me.

As promised, a little overdue, here are my slides and I hope they are helpful.


Over the past two years we have seen an evolution in botnets from instruments of mass disruption to exploit-enhanced armies amassed from hundreds of thousands of  vulnerable IoT devices used for cryptomining and control.

Attackers have turned from ransomware to miners in their quest for monetization, seizing the opportunity for a guaranteed return on investment. No risk, no overhead, no ransom. There is a wealth of resources in enterprise environments to feed the high CPU and energy demands of hungry miners while evading detection. Attackers are leveraging widespread critical vulnerabilities on enterprise systems to gain access and propagate. And once inside those data-rich enterprise networks – there are other opportunities to be mined for both criminals and nation state attackers.

As we move past outages to destructive payloads what should we expect
when weaponization meets automation? That’s what I wanted to do with this talk – present the evolution of botnets and miners from annoyance to adversary, and discuss how we need to reassess our attack surfaces from IoT to enterprise.

Since January 2018, when I first read about the massive cryptomining botnet, Smominru, I was hooked and had to learn more about how hundreds of thousands of vulnerable IoT devices could become zombies in a botnet army that was used to mine bitcoin. Last year I spoke on the rapid evolution of botnets, but cryptominers have taken on a life of their own, and present an increasing threat to enterprise systems, which are often behind in patching cycles and therefore vulnerable to opportunistic attackers, ready with exploits.

When it comes to botnets, we perceive an increasing attack surface in terms of IoT devices, but malevolent cryptominers have discovered the land of opportunity in enterprise systems, where there is an abundance of CPU power and energy sources so they are less detectable. Botnets have increased by more than 500% since 2017, and there has been a fifteen-fold increase in cryptomining across 2018 into 2019.¬† Attackers have leveraged sophisticated exploits from the Shadowbrokers stolen cache of NSA goodies, like Eternal Blue to gain access and spread. But they are also making the most of Windows systems and internals, utilizing Powershell, and ‚Äúliving off the land‚ÄĚ to
evade detection.

With a guaranteed return on investment at almost no cost and no risk, cryptominers present a ‚Äúnothing to lose, everything to gain‚ÄĚ incentive for criminals and attackers. But how seriously are they being taken as a threat by organizations? In my opinion, not seriously enough. While current facts may not show them as a blip on the threat radar screen, the tactics and evolution warn of what is coming. I’ve tried to share two years of my fascination and research on how botnets and cryptominers have moved from annoyances against individuals to weaponized attacks on enterprise systems.

The simple fact is, you won’t find what you’re not looking for. Enterprise systems don’t have a great detection rate for cryptominers. My objective is to create awareness around how attackers are leveraging current enterprise vulnerabilities in conjunction with
sophisticated exploits so that botnets and miners evade detections in place. Because once they’re in your network, they can do a lot more than mine bitcoin.

I provide some details on which CVEs, which exploits, and which tactics are being used by attackers; which ports should be monitored and are used by miners; how Linux, Docker and Mac are now targets; and articles and sources on recent attacks. Some attacks I use to illustrate are:

  • Kingminer: bruteforce entry on servers running MS IIS/SQL, disabling
    configuration file with API for evasion
  • PSMiner: backdoor Trojan cryptominer targeting Linux and MacOS via
  • Docker Rigs: Cryptojacking campaigns on vulnerable docker rigs
    leveraging CVE-2019-5736 to overwrite the runc binary and create a
    container escape to write arbitrary code
  • Smominru: Massive cryptomining rig leveraging EternalBlue and WMI
    WireX: Botnet of Android devices infected through Google Playstore
    apps to connect them to a headless Web browser and encrypt malicious
    traffic using SSL

CVEs/Vulnerabilities used for RCE:

  • CVE-2012-0874: JBoss Enterprise Application Platform Multiple Security
    Bypass Vulnerabilities.
  • CVE-2010-1871: JBoss Seam Framework
  • JBoss AS 3/4/5/6: CVE-2017-10271: Oracle WebLogic wls-wsat Component
    Deserialization RCE
  • CVE-2018-2894: Vulnerability in the Oracle WebLogic Server component
    of Oracle Fusion Middleware.
  • Hadoop YARN ResourceManager – Command Execution
  • CVE-2016-3088: Apache ActiveMQ Fileserver File Upload

So, yeah, if you’re working in a medium to large organization then chances are excellent you’ve got some of the above in your enterprise network environment. Do I need to remind you about those active exploits against Oracle WebLogic – again? Go patch!