Careers: Interviews
Laura Chappell: Internationally Renowned Sr. Protocol/Security Analyst and Founder of the Protocol Analysis Institute; Recipient 2005 NPA International "Professional Excellence and Innovation Award - Independent Network Contractor"

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Laura Chappell, recipient of the “2005 NPA International Professional Excellence and Innovation Award – Independent Network Contractor” given out at the world’s largest networking industry conference, Networld+Interop Las Vegas. The Award is sponsored by the Network Professional Association with cooperation and support including from Networld+Interop, Microsoft, Que/SAMS (Pearson Technology Group Publishing), Network Computing Magazine, Network World Magazine, Novell Canada, …

Laura is the Founder and Senior Protocol/Security Analyst for the Protocol Analysis Institute, LLC, www.packet-level.com. Moreover, Laura is a widely regarded speaker and best-selling author of numerous industry titles on network communications and analysis. Her top-ranking speaking engagements include Microsoft’s Technet and TechEd Conferences, Novell’s BrainShare Conferences, and the HP Enterprise Technical Symposium. Ms. Chappell is also the founder of and Technical Advisor for podbooks.com, an Internet-based publishing company focused on packet-level communications and security. In addition, Ms. Chappell writes and provides content for a number of industry publications.  In 2005, Ms. Chappell released her Master Library encompassing all books, self-study courses, video-courses and trace file interpretations. For more information on podbooks.com, visit www.podbooks.com. For more information on the Laura Chappell Master Library, visit www.packet-level.com/library.

Internationally renowned, Laura has trained thousands of LAN/WAN administrators, law enforcement officers, engineers, technicians and developers worldwide. Chappell is a member of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) and an Associate Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) since 1989.

Through the Protocol Analysis Institute, LLC, Chappell founded the Internet Safety for Kids program in 2005.  This program provides education and presentation services on online predators, safe Internet communications and parental and law enforcement resources. For more information on the Internet Safety for Kids program, visit www.packet-level.com/kids or contact Ms. Chappell at kids@packet-level.com.

The latest blog on the interview can be found on March 10, 2006 in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
http://blogs.technet.com/cdnitmanagers/

Discussion:

Q: Laura: you have a long and remarkable history of successes in a distinguished career with many notable accomplishments. Congratulations on your fine achievement as the recipient of the networking industry’s highest international award for Independent Network Contractors, the 2005 NPA Professional Excellence and Innovation Award.

Share your thoughts on this honour and your work that led up to receiving this prestigious international award – the highest award for contractors in the trillion dollar global field of the internet, networking, communications, and security.

A: It certainly was an honour to receive this award and I thank the NPA for recognizing the Internet Safety for Kids program and this important topic. Awareness and education are our greatest resources and tasks in protecting children against online predators. We certainly don’t want to protect our children by limiting their safe use of the Internet – we want our kids to grow up as Internet-savvy individuals who can use the internet safely as the tremendous resource that it is.

The Internet Safety for Kids (ISK) program was the positive result of a very negative experience. A law enforcement officer made a presentation on Operation Avalanche at an HTCIA (High Technology Crime Investigation Association) conference. Operation Avalanche was a sting operation that netted Thomas Reedy and his wife, Janice, who ran a child pornography ring that consisted of some 250,000 subscribers. The officer making the presentation described the images of children who had been tortured into committing sexual acts with other children. Those images haunted me – I began having nightmares with those images flashing through my mind. At this point, there was a choice to be made – learn to deal with it or do something about it. After talking over the idea with my business associate, Brenda Czech, who has experience working in children’s shelters and dealing with these horrific events, the ISK program was born. Now, we create and maintain the ISK website, resource and presentation materials. By the time this article is printed, the Internet Safety for Kids book should be completed. This book was developed under the Open Publishing License to allow anyone to access and use the materials free of charge.

Q: You are a leader whose career provides inspiration and mentorship to IT Pros worldwide. What prompted you to get into computing? Describe your journey from the early years to the present.

A: Directly out of high school I started a word processing company with my best friend, Jill Poulsen. We’d both learned to use NBI systems when working in my father’s office. Then the IBM PC was released… I obsessed on it... it was the future in our eyes and we sold the business assets to a client so we could move on.

In order to get as much experience in many different companies, I then decided to do temporary work. Given my fascination and knack with the PC, I was often thrown into the role of installing and troubleshooting systems. Finally one customer (a law firm in Los Angeles) lured me into a full-time position of network administrator when they showed me a big red box of software called NetWare and stacks of IBM PCs and printers. Again, I obsessed over the software – learning everything I could about how it worked and what we could do with an actual network of systems. I decided to take a network administration course from a company called Vitek in San Marcos, California. When the instructor, C.W. Rogers – a  retired naval commander, entered the room with booming voice and cutting humor, I practically stood at attention. Throughout the class I was the “student from hell” constantly tapping away at the keyboard during lectures, jumping ahead in the student manual and asking questions that were out of the scope of the class content. More than once, C.W. loudly reprimanded me for being a lousy student. 

After getting the network up and running and training all the employees on the new system, I felt it was time to move on. Unsure of what to do, I submitted resumes to a number of groups – one being Vitek, the company I’d taken the NetWare course from. I was surprised one day when Audrey Pine (one of the owners) called me back to ask for an interview. I arrived ready to talk about becoming their best sales phone associate ever – given my experience, I felt I could talk the talk on networking products and possibilities. It was at this moment that she informed me that C.W. had decided that I would be an instructor – not a sales person. I was shocked and had a terrible case of stage fright (from a horrid experience in a musical at school). When C.W. walked in the room, I immediately began to shake (after I saluted him, of course). At that point, he changed my name from Laurie (the nickname I’d grown up with) to Laura (my true name) – he told me I would an instructor and that was that.

C.W. mentored me in teaching – explaining that people wanted to enjoy the course and not be bored by it. His analogies were usually hysterical and not a bit politically correct even in those more relaxed days; and I loved it!

The move to Novell was a natural one. I went to work for JD Marymee (an ex-Vitek instructor as well) in the Networking Technologies group. Our goal was to develop and deliver advanced networking courses to Novell employees, key associates and eventually the world. It was Ray Noorda’s pet project and every day was thrilling. When Novell purchased the Excelan Corporation, their instructors gave us a quick overview of the LANalyzer protocol analyzer they created. One packet appeared and I knew that I would spend the rest of my life working at packet-level. I was hooked. Ray and JD gave me the freedom to stretch my legs and learn, document and teach networking at the packet-level. 

When I finally left Novell to start my current business, the Protocol Analysis Institute (which has undergone three name changes before settling in on this one), I had traveled the world to talk about networking. I had worked on a tremendous number of networks and analyzed thousands of trace files. 

Although I specialized in network troubleshooting and optimization originally, it became apparent that there were some serious security flaws in many of the networks I examined. Traffic crossed the wire in plain text; unknown applications were hounding servers until they crashed; unauthorized users were spotted lurking on the network. We began to meld security reviews into our onsite analysis work. 

Security and packet-level analysis are a wonderful combination – if you really want to secure your network, you really need to understand how the data moves.  Where does it enter the network? What should it look like? Where are the vulnerabilities in the TCP/IP stack and the applications? Network and Internet-based attacks are visible in trace files – knowing what to look for is imperative.

Q: What compelling ten attributes provide success for IT Pros?

A: 

  1. The ability to self-study. If you wait to learn everything from others, you will always be behind the curve of knowledge. 
  2. The ability to explain (verbal or in writing) how the technology works.
  3. A strong knowledge of TCP/IP communications and a personal lab and the desire to experiment with new products.
  4. The desire to share your knowledge with others by training them on what you know. You really confirm that you understand a technology when you can teach it to others. Also – don’t hoard information – there’s enough to go around.  Be big enough to share your knowledge with those seeking assistance and help learning.
  5. A good attitude – remember, you could be doing a million other jobs that have little change or challenges.
  6. Strong ethical footing to protect your client and your company from unsavory characters and gapping security holes.
  7. Goal-oriented view of your place in the networking industry – what subjects do you want to master in the next 30 days? 6 months? Year?
  8. Flexibility and adaptability to change – in our industry we thrive on change, hopefully for the better.
  9. The ability to see the opportunities when they present themselves – when a topic seems hot there will be demand for experts in that area – jump on it!
  10. A good sense of humor – the popularity of the Dilbert comic series indicates that we are a pretty twisted group underneath the technobabble – revel in your offbeat world!

 Q: Why are there so few woman in the field and how can this be changed?

A: Probably because it (a) appears to be male-dominated already (which often scares of women) and (b) women are too smart to get into this mess. (Just kidding.) Actually, if someone had offered me a career path in networking early on I would have passed. Sounds boring. Sounds like math. I think many women are not attracted to the field because they have not seen all the cool sides of it. We probably need to do more to represent the field in its fascinating mind-blowing image – to both men and women.

Q: You are an author and editor of many best-sellers. How did you get into writing and how can aspiring IT Pros become branded as authors?

A:  I always dreamed of writing – that was my “life goal” immediately out of high school. Of course, I thought I’d write some trashy novel or maybe a spy thriller. I heard about Novell Press when I was teaching how the packets moved through the network. I figured that I could write a book just simply by putting the class material on paper. After receiving a 6 month window to write the first IPX/SPX book, I sat down one weekend and began just writing down what I would say to someone. By Monday morning, the first book draft was done! 

Since then, I have learned that there are two ways to write a book.  The first is when the book writes itself in your head – you know a topic well and have experienced life as a typical user of the technology. You make all the mistakes and ask all the questions. One day, you sit and jot down and outline. If there are topics still unanswered, you go study those topics. When you feel comfortable with all the areas of the topic, then begin to describe them on paper – the book eventually is “born.”

The second way is much more difficult for me. This is when you attempt to write a book on a topic you are not familiar with. In this case I find the process to be grueling and painful. More like having your teeth pulled out one by one. For many folks, however, they enjoy this because the goal is before them – they know what they must work on and the focus on the outline to guide them. 

I think the IT Pros out there are a wealth of knowledge. The best way to begin a writing career is to go with the first method – write what you know about. We are all dying to hear case studies, so write one. Tell us what your networking challenge was, how you went about finding a solution, how you implemented your solution and what the outcome was. Network troubleshooting case studies are especially compelling reading. Everyone wants to hear how someone else crawled to the top of the dung heap we call network downtime! 

Be certain to use your own voice in your first draft. Just “talk” to the paper as you go. If you must swear, then do so (the editors will remove it later). Put your emotions into it so we know how you felt and can emotionally relate to your story. Of course, I relate Appletalk Routing Table Maintenance Protocol traffic to a Chihuahua, and my love of ethical hacking to Sister Gerald at Catholic school, so I’m partial to personal anecdotes.

Q: Share your top ten tips for writing?

A:       

  1. Write from experience – select a topic you know well or are mastering.
  2. Pick a hot topic – every time someone asks you a technical question or you have an unanswered question, write it down. I keep a list of hot questions in a notepad.
  3. Consider just audio taping yourself teaching a topic first. Then transcribe it onto paper. You can edit yourself, but remember that a good editor can turn mushy wording into clean, crisp writing your mother would be proud of.
  4. Start small. Consider writing an article for a magazine or newsletter first. These are good starting places and someday those bits and pieces may be bulky enough to build a book from.
  5. Write a short outline first. Sketch out your bullet points under each topic and then fill in each bullet with a paragraph. If you feel stuck in one area, just move on. It will be stuck in your head that you need to figure that section out – trust me, your brain will work on it subconsciously.
  6. Talk it over with someone.  If you get stuck on a topic, consider talking it over with someone else. They can prod you with the right questions to address in your story.
  7. Sketch your graphics first.  Don’t get bogged down by trying to make some fancy 3D image of your idea – just work with stick figures, boxes and blobs. Most of us are visually oriented so we really need to see these pictures to make the information stick in our minds.
  8. Keep articles you like. If you find an article that you really enjoyed reading, put it up on your wall. What did you like about the article? The style? The topic? The format? 
  9. Build your buyer list. When you read a book or article that interests you, write down the publisher’s name and contact information. When your next hot idea hits, send off a quick email asking if they are interested in the story. 
  10. Know when to quit. If the article or book isn’t gelling, you need to call in the reserves – other writers who could help finish or take over the piece for you. I learned early on that I could not write opening or closing paragraphs in books. That stumped me going into a chapter and when I was ready to move on when I’d finished a technical section. These are sections I bring someone else in to build for me. If I had to write these myself then i would consider medicating myself to get through them!

Q: Describe the process of producing best-selling courses. What are the key elements in creating a successful course? How can IT Pros get into this field? What qualities make for success?

A: The first element of writing a course is interest. If you aren’t interested in the topic it will come across in your writing and your lab exercises. It will also be an excruciatingly painful process. I know that some of you work for companies that dictate the course topic and I feel for you. You are a better person than I if you can stick with it and produce a golden egg!

Once you have your course topic, list the learning goals. What do you think the student would need to know about this topic. Now start writing to those goals. Hands-on exercises add to the learning experience so remember to include in-class or after-class exercises. 

Include real world case studies whenever possible. Relate the material to the students’ world so they know they are learning material they can use. 

Ask someone to review the outline before you start – many times I’ve written course outlines that have fallen with a “thud” to the floor in someone’s office. Hey – I thought an “algorithms for mathematically-impaired” course would be a hot topic… thud.

Q: You are a top-ranking speaker. What are some pointers that make for speaking success?

A:       

  1. Love your topic. We can all spot presenters who don’t care a hoot about their topic.
  2. Know your topic better than anyone else.
  3. Realize that # 2 is impossible and keep learning – get answers to those students’ questions that you couldn’t answer in class.
  4. Remember that it gets easier with more practice. If you are nervous going in front of the room – try to talk with the audience before you get out there. I sometimes hang out by the coffee pots before a presentation to chat with folks going in. I’ll ask them about themselves and what they are going to the presentation for. When I get up to speak, I feel more comfortable because I am on a personal basis with a couple of folks in the room.
  5. Give personal examples.  Include case studies related to your topic.
  6. If you can’t tell a good joke, don’t try. Practice on others first before standing in front of a room and delivering that punch line. The awful silence of a joke that bombs can really throw you.
  7. Get physical – walk the stage or front of the room. Don’t stand in one place. Make the students move their eyes to keep up with you. 
  8. Work on your voice.  A monotone voice can put a Jack Russell Terrier to sleep! Learn to vary your vocal patterns and accept silence as an “unexpected alert” to the students. Until your vocal cords are strong enough to boom through a 100-seater room, make sure you have a wireless microphone that can pick up every little nuance of your vocal tones.
  9. Accept that we all have lousy days – there are times when my presentations just felt “off.” If you taught solid information and typically receive favorable comments, then just shrug it off. If you receive negative evaluations, look into the comments to see if there is something you need to work on (like not swearing or talking about your Mother so much – or swearing when you talk about your Mother at all!).  Be open to those comments, but balance them with all the other evaluations to see how you really did.
  10. Listen to your audience – the audience responds in various ways.  Shifting in their seats. Running out to take cell phone calls. Asking questions constantly. Their responses tell you how you are doing. 
  11. I had to add this one because it is a pet peeve of mine – DON’T LET ONE ATTENDEE RUN THE SHOW.  We’ve all seen this – one guy raises his hand from the back of the room to monopolize the presentation with his personal, uh, er… I mean professional problem. By the time the long-winded description of the problem is done, the audience is in a light state of coma. Feel free to look at your watch and cut them off. Let them know that you’re on a strict schedule and they can email you all the information so you can give the issue more thought. Believe me, the other audience members will love you for this!

Q: From all the videos, courses, articles, and books you have written, compile your list of the top ten best practices and little known but highly useful tips.

A:

  1. Get a trace of the traffic each time something weird happens – even if you know what the problem is. You’ll learn to recognize the traffic patterns of strange or fault behavior and you’ll need that someday!
  2. Get a trace of your boot up and login process – your whole networking environment is shaped by these sequences so get to know them well.
  3. Learn how TCP/IP communicates.  This is the fundamental knowledge base that every IT professional should possess.
  4. Keep a journal of technical questions, issues, problems, resolutions – this can be your resource when you are looking for topics to study and your reminder of unanswered issues.
  5. Build a network analysis and security toolkit for yourself – gather all the software and hardware you may need and have it ready at all times.  This could include instructions on how to set up port mirroring/switching, your hubs, extra cables, USB drives, monitoring and testing software, etc.  Laura’s Lab Kit v6 can get you started in that direction.
  6. Get to know ICMP inside and out.  Strong knowledge of this protocol is essential for troubleshooting, optimization and security.
  7. Perform a security vulnerability audit on your network (with appropriate permissions, of course) before some untrusted entity does.
  8. Perform a network audit and build and validate your network designs.  A solid inventory of what you have and the design of the network can be of tremendous value when you are troubleshooting or securing the network.
  9. Get on the CERT mailing list and other security mailing lists to keep up-to-date with the latest announcements on security flaws and patches.
  10. Try to set aside 15 minutes a day to study some topic listed in your IT journal.  Keeping up with the technology is difficult so try to set up a block of time each day and stick with it.

Q: Tell us more about the Protocol Analysis Institute, your vision, mission, goals and objectives in the short, medium, and long term. What prompted you to start the company?

A: Protocol Analysis Institute is dedicated to researching, documenting and training on network troubleshooting, optimization and security. We believe in a full exchange of knowledge. When I do an onsite analysis of a network, I insist that the local team follow along with everything I do so they can learn from onsite. If I’ve done my job well, their network issues should be resolved and they should feel confident finding and identifying the problem by themselves in the future. 

Our current goals are to research, develop and deliver new materials on the hot topics of the day. This includes Voice over IP, 802.11, security tools and tricks, network analysis and forensics and host forensics. Much of our time these days is also devoted to the Internet Safety for Kids program. We hear from many individuals and groups who would like access to the materials, have questions on the topic or have suggestions on how to get the word out. 

I started the company back in 1993 to offer open training and onsite analysis services to a variety of customers. Although we are a very small company, we have strong alliances with our customers and many of the vendors who produce the tools we use and show in courses. 

Q: Share your vision and secrets behind podbooks.com and Laura Chappell Master Library. 

A: Podbooks.com was launched because traditional publishing houses are not interested in developing and delivering highly specialized books that may not appeal to the masses. In addition, after writing an 800-page monster, I was burned out with the traditional book writing process and frustrated that my style was often edited out of a book. Just because the topic is technical does not mean it must be dry, boring and politically correct 100% of the time, right? The Laura Chappell Master Library (LCML) gives us an opportunity to bundle all the resources, training and books into a single package. The training is available in multiple delivery formats to address buyers who learn through reading, voice-over demonstrations, or video presentations. 

Q: One of the areas you are most proud of is your Internet Safety for Kids program. Why is the program your passion? What do you hope to accomplish and how can the audience participate? Share with us the details behind the recognition from the INP.

A: Internet Safety for Kids is my passion. In an ideal world, I would spend all my time developing materials and delivering this vital information internationally. As the mother of two Internet-savvy children (ages 8 and 10), my heart goes out to the children and the families who have been victims of child luring, child pornography and child sexual exploitation. Our goal is to create a freely-available collection of instructional materials that can be used to teach Internet safety to the adult audience. It is our belief that if the adults know the risks, predator luring techniques, methods of communication and signs of offender manipulation, then they will teach the children.  

Q: How do you further plan to make a difference in your workplace, and community, and in academia, industry, and government?

A: Currently we have a pro bono program to provide free training on topics of security and troubleshooting to specific groups. I regularly present courses for the US Court system and various law enforcement and government groups. Often I present to schools who would like to excite their students on the possibilities in the security field. At Microsoft’s TechEd conference, I was a panelist on their Women in Technology luncheon to share some thoughts on how to interest more women in this field.

Q: Describe your responsibilities: day-to-day, tactically, and strategically. What lessons can you share with others?

A:  A typical day begins in the role of “Mom.” My business as a protocol and security analyst is secondary to my business as a Mom. This means most days are not very predictable and often my strategy is simply to make it to the business meeting without Rice Krispies stuck to my shirt.

Having a very tolerant and organized associate, Brenda Czech, makes the business run. People have learned that I am often late in answering email because it piles up quickly. They know they can reach Brenda to find me when I travel. My business would not run without such help in coordinating schedules, client requests, and delivery deadlines.

Q: You have an impressive list of clients worldwide. Share with us some case studies that illustrate key philosophies, technologies, and best practices.

A: My clients are so varied in their approach to networking, troubleshooting and security. 

One of my more impressive clients have an impressive lab environment that all products must go through before being rolled out on the network. Each application and host system must be checked out completely before they are allowed onto the network. One element of the application testing process requires that the tester perform a trace file analysis of the application’s traffic. This proactive step allows them to analyze and troubleshoot the application faster once it is rolled out.

Another client that supports a desktop group, infrastructure group and security group sets up a cross-training and brainstorming lunch each month for all groups.  Each group shares their concerns and issues with other groups. 

A medical company client often needs to be on the bleeding edge of technology to support their users and the distribution of medical information on a timely and secure basis. The CTO brings in industry experts during the pre-planning phases to identify key areas of research. They save themselves time and money by building a clear and accurate path to their goals.

Q: Illustrate by using a case study approach, what network analysis and security will look like in 2007, 2010, 2015?

A: I imagine that by 2007, our analysis solutions will become more distributed and more intelligent – offering expert systems that evaluate traffic and alert the analyst to problems in a more proactive manner. For example, continuous processing of traffic may discover that a host is sending traffic to a system that responds with TCP reset packets, a clear indication that the process is not available on the target. Although some manufacturers are moving in this direction, I think we need to see significant technical improvements and price reductions to bring this capability to the small to medium-sized business.

By 2010, we will be seeing more encryption carried up the protocol stack to the applications – I imagine performing upper-layer analysis on a misbehaving application will become more difficult unless these analyzers are able to view the commands and responses before the encryption process begins. Imagine the advantage of an analyzer agent that looks at the pre-encrypted request and compares it to the post-decrypted response to note any errors.

By 2015, we should see tremendously high-bandwidth analyzers that can sift through millions of packets per second and pull out the questionable traffic. For example, imagine being able to place an analyzer on the network backbone and immediately filter out the “known to be good traffic” in order to focus on the unusual traffic patterns. Alerts should be received on mobiles or through email systems while the analyzer begins to build the report and “check in” data for investigation.

Q: What have been your top five challenges over your career? Why are they included on your list and how did you resolve them?

A: I was forced to conquer my fear of speaking in public by being pushed in front of a room to present day after day – teaching up to 20 days a month. Receiving a few positive reviews and finding ways to bring in personal experiences and humor have also helped make presenting more fun each year.

When writers block struck, I learned to record lectures and transcribe the verbiage – a quick clean up left me with some nice articles and book chapters.

Keeping up with email has always been a challenge – empowering my associate, Brenda, to handle most customers and partners requests helped reduce the email queries sent directly to me and provides timely responses.

Traveling and teaching daily can keep me so busy that I miss opportunities and requests because I don’t have the time to follow-up on projects. Partnering with other companies such as Essentialtalk and Institute for Network Professionals enables me to have a team of individuals who identify opportunities and act on them so they won’t slip by.

Balancing family and work has been a tremendous challenge. When I started traveling it broke my heart to leave my kids behind to fly off and stay in hotel rooms night after night. These days however, I schedule my travel around my kids and take them with me whenever possible. They have traveled to Tokyo, Okinawa and Seoul with me for a US Armed Forces training. They traveled all over Australia with me on a conference tour. It can be exhausting to teach all day at a location and then get back to the hotel room to two kids who are thrilled to see Mom and want to play – but it is a good exhaustion.

Q: What are the top ten resources for IT Pros in your profession?

A:

  1. Vendor websites (for whitepapers)
  2. IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), www.iana.org
  3. Mark Minasi’s website, www.minasi.com
  4. Spyware Warrior’s website, www.spywarewarrior.com
  5. The Register website (theregister.co.uk)
  6. IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), www.ietf.org
  7. Bruce Schneier’s Cryptogram Newsletter, www.counterpane.com
  8. Ofir Arkin’s website, www.sys-security.com
  9. CERT (Carnegie Mellon’s emergency response team), www.cert.org
  10. HTCIA (High Technology Crime Investigation Association), www.htcia.org

Q: Laura, look into your crystal ball and provide five-to-ten industry predictions. What should IT Pros and businesses look for?

A: Security will remain in the forefront of network concerns as attackers continue to pound away at their defenses. Vendors will begin to build in security mechanisms into their product and tout that as a ‘key feature’ of their software and/or hardware. Security and privacy standards will become commonplace among all countries and I imagine we will see some big corporations fall due to security breaches.  Sadly, I also imagine that terrorism will rear its ugly head and cause an emphasis on hardening government and infrastructure networks.

Q: Choose three topics of your choosing and providing commentary.

A: 1) Topic 1: Working with law enforcement:
Some of my best students are law enforcement officers. They are often challenged with thankless jobs that place them directly in contact with sophisticated corporate IT staff that shows little patience or understanding of the law enforcement officer’s potential lack of technical sophistication. Many law enforcement officers are thrown into the IT forensics and investigation realm with little base knowledge – they are forced to cram on the technology at a pace that few of us personally experienced. It is our duty to help these folks by participating at their conferences, offer our time and expertise to assist them on cases when needed, and show respect for their efforts. Joining an organization such as HTCIA has provided me with some wonderful opportunities to share my knowledge with a variety of law enforcement agencies and I urge other IT professionals to get involved in this organization.

2) Topic 2: Internet Safety for Kids:
This program is near and dear to my heart. Everyone can make a difference by reading through the materials online at www.packet-level.com/kids and presenting or forwarding those materials on to other parents, teachers, leaders, etc. In an ideal world, I would take one year off from the IT lecture circuit just to promote and develop content for the Internet Safety for Kids program – it is one of the most worthwhile projects I have ever participated in.

3) Topic 3: Catholic Boarding School:
Many people have heard me joke that my “sneaky ways” were crafted during my tenure at Catholic boarding school. If you’ve been to Catholic boarding school, then you know what I mean.  During one class I turned around after a whiteboard lecture to find a nun sitting in the center of the audience. I remember my heart pounding and my palms getting sweaty.  Of course, I had to immediately recant a story or two about my run-ins with Sister Gerald, the head of discipline (the poor woman!). Although I often refer to the time I “did” in boarding school as traumatic, it really was a blessing for me – it made me realize that I could thrive in some amazingly unusual circumstances.

Q: Laura, it has been a real pleasure talking with you. Thank you for doing this interview and sharing your invaluable experiences with our audience. 

A: Thank you, Stephen.  My sincere thanks to the NPA for recognizing the Internet Safety for Kids program – we hope to continue to expand the content and partner with new individuals and corporations to help educate others on ways to protect our kids as they surf the Internet.

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