Terry Zink: Security Talk

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

Security starts with not doing stupid things

Security starts with not doing stupid things

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Or rather, with me not doing stupid things.

I’m currently at a conference in New Orleans (TechEd, a Microsoft conference) and I just about had a very serious security gaffe yesterday.  I left Seattle and it was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s a decent June, summer day in Seattle).  I got to New Orleans and it’s hot down there.  Just waiting around for my shuttle to the hotel I was sweating, it must have been around 90 degrees.  My glasses fogged up as soon as I exited the airport (when am I getting LASIC again?).  To alleviate the heat, I took off my jacket and put it into my suitcase.  I kept my wallet in my jacket, the inside pocket.  The shuttle came, they put my bag below the bus, and I got on board.  Now I realize in retrospect that I probably should not have separated myself from my wallet, but I did watch them put my bag on the bus and close the door and my hotel was the first stop.  So, the chances of theft were small.  Besides, no one knew I had done that (except for possibly that stalking spammer who tried to kill me in China and Peru).

We got to the hotel about 30 minutes later and I got off the bus, collected my bags and went to check in.  As I was waiting in line, I opened up my suitcase and retrieved my jacket, trying to fish through it to find my wallet.  It wasn’t there.  I rolled my eyes and realized I was going to have to open my bag and go through it all.  I exited the line to allow others to pass by me.  I went to a corner and started going through everything.  My wallet wasn’t there!  I went through my carry on bag and checked (even though I knew it wasn’t there), and it wasn’t there either.  I went through my bag again and confirmed what I knew before – I had lost my wallet.

I had no idea how that could have happened.  It was in my jacket when I put it in my luggage at the airport before I got on the shuttle.  It wasn’t in there when I got off.  I ran through my head about the various scenarios I would have to solve:

  1. First things first.  I had to check-in, or at least try to.  From there I could call the airport and see if anyone had found it.  Maybe there was someone who did and turned it in.  But would the hotel even let me check in without the credit card that I had booked it with?  Luckily, I still had a form of identification, my passport.  That one I do carry with me everywhere.

  2. Now that my wallet was gone, I ran through a list of things that I needed to replace.  There was my driver’s license, 2 credit cards and an atm card.  Those I would need to cancel.  I didn’t have any cash on me, but I would have to deal with that later.  I had my laptop and could look up all of the necessary numbers online and sort everything out that way.

I got in line and attempted to check in.  As I did so, I handed over my identification (my passport) and the lady looked down at a screen.  She kind of hesitated.  She then said to me “Mr. Zink?”

“Yes?” I replied in response to her question.

“Did you lose a wallet?”

Suddenly, a wave of relief flooded over me.  That question alone told me that I had only “lost” it in the past 10-15 minutes or however long it was when I was fishing through my stuff or pulling my jacket out of my suitcase.  I hadn’t lost it at the airport after all.  In fact, even now I still don’t know how I lost it, maybe it fell out of my bag when I pulled out my jacket and then hit the ground, bouncing behind me… I don’t know.

Anyhow, I replied in the affirmative that I had, indeed, lost my wallet.  The lady then left and came back a minute later, wallet in hand.  I smiled and thanked her profusely.  I wasn’t going to be wallet-less after all.  I checked in, headed up to my room, kicked off my heels and relaxed a bit.  I then gave myself a mental lecture to stop losing important things when I travel.  Security starts with not doing stupid things.

At least I didn’t lose my passport.  I’ve done that before, too.  But that’s a story for another time.

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  • I enjoyed your talk at tech-ed "Behind the Spam: A Look at Botnets, Malware, and the Spammers Who Run Them"  Nice presentation.  

    Looking forward to following your blog.

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