This edition of AFoB Blog is a guest post by the Cindy Murphy. She’s a prominent figure in the digital forensics community and I’m honored to call her a friend. Every good forensics person needs a core group of other forensics people to go to for advice and Cindy has bailed me out on various digital forensics questions many times over the years.
Prey drive. Pure, unadulterated prey drive. It’s built into every great working dog, and also exists at the core of the best forensic examiners and incident responders. My friend, and fellow Iowan, Eric Huber expressed this analogy really well in his recent post “Border Collies.”
Expanding upon the Border Collie analogy, I would say that there are all sorts of great working dogs in the DF/IR community. There are guard dogs and guide dogs, police and service dogs, search and rescue dogs, and hunting dogs, both pointers and flushers. There are even a few show dogs out there.
Each and every one of these proud DF/IR working dog types fills a crucial role in the community, including research and development, tool development, teaching, consultation, frontline protection and penetration testing of networks. Their common prey: catching bad guys and holding them responsible.
If you are one of the many DF/IR professionals who identify with this analogy, hopefully you have found someplace where you fit – found that job that suits your personality and interests, and rewards your underlying drive in a way that helps you to understand how the work you do makes a difference in the larger scheme of things.
DF/IR working dogs need to work. They thrive in situations where they are challenged in ways that are compatible with their instincts and drive. A good work environment, including a nice work space or office, a good paycheck and benefits are appreciated, just as any working dog appreciates a full belly, a warm bed, and the love and affection of their human companions.
But it’s the work that drives them, keeps them interested, and brings them back day after day, case after case. A boss or an organization that understands this drive, supports it, and fosters it is a blessing. Love of the work and a strong sense of purpose can keep the best DF/IR working dog coming back even when the work environment, the content of the cases, the paycheck, or their management aren’t completely ideal.
I’ve worked with a sufficient number of well-trained police dogs, and hunted behind enough great bird dogs, to know that watching them work and working with them, is a thing of absolute beauty. When a dog is working, they are completely in the moment, laser focused, and deadly efficient. They are naturally in the flow. It doesn’t matter if they’re hungry, thirsty, tired, cold, wet, or even old and injured. They will continue at their job until they succeed or they’re called off.
When hunting, a hunting dog is doing the thing they were born to do. They are living their ultimate purpose.
Anyone who has ever shared their life with a hunting dog knows that in the off season they don’t take a break. They stalk and hunt squirrels, rabbits, robins and even bees in their back yards through the long, warm, lazy days of summer. They gladly endure the inevitable sting on their muzzles rather than give up the pursuit. Their dreams are consumed with successful stalks and hunts.
A hunting dog learns the terrain of their favorite fields intimately. They know the haunts and hiding places of their prey – every brush pile, briar patch, hollow log and hidey hole. They remember their past successes year to year. A good dog guides or anticipates the pattern of the hunt, and even the timing of success.
And yet occasionally, even the most loyal and seasoned hunting dog longs for the variety of a new and un-hunted field or for different quarry. Like some other well trained and experienced DF/IR professionals, I have recently had the experience of being courted by multiple prospective employers. While definitely flattering, there is a certain degree of stress involved in the resulting choices. I long for new challenges and the opportunity to expand and use my DF/IR knowledge and skills in different areas.
And as a very human-centric consideration, I know that I am currently making less money than I could elsewhere based upon my skills, experience and training. I know that to change these things, I will need to change employers at some point in time, and that time is approaching.
And so, in the forward wake of several lucrative offers and opportunities, I called upon my friend Eric for advice: How do I know the right job when it comes along? Will I regret leaving my current job with its strong sense of purpose and stability, even if it doesn’t pay as well and even if I have advanced as far as I can there? How do I make a choice between several seemingly great opportunities? Does a lot more money compensate for a potentially less interesting, challenging, and rewarding work day?
It didn’t take Eric long to hit right at the heart of my angst. Being the straight forward Iowa boy he is, he just put it out there and told me what he saw:
I am that seasoned hunting dog on opening day of hunting season. Six summer-fat birds have just flushed in front of me and are quartering away in different directions. I have temporarily lost my DF/IR bird dog head over the fact that I can’t go after them all, even as lovely as they all may seem, and even as much as I love the one I already have.
My dad taught me to deal with this knuckleheaded over-excitement by celebrating the dog’s initial success, settling them down, and when the dog regains mental focus and control giving the go ahead: “Hunt ‘em up!” Eric, likewise, encouraged me to settle down, take control of my own hunt, and to go after the proverbial bird of a job that best fits my unique skill set and needs.
In the wise words of Krishnamurti “First understand yourself, and out of that self-knowledge will come action of the right kind." Or, in my father’s wise words, “Hunt ‘em up!”