Top IT podcasts


I thought it would be valuable to some readers if I collated a list of the top IT podcasts in one place and gave a brief description of each of them. Who am I kidding? This list will also be helpful to me as I get older and start forgetting more and more things. Some of these shows were new to me so I went on a marathon session before reviewing.


  • Packet Pushers – this was the first networking podcast I started listening to and its still my favourite. It is hosted by Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks, both who have been in the industry long enough to know a thing or two. Topics cover protocols, hardware, design, security, certification, a little bit of SDN, etc. There have been a few attempts at other podcast streams under the Packet Pushers banner. The Priority Queue is used to deep dive on niche topics and Healthy Paranoia is an excellent security focused podcast hosted by Michele Chubirka. There was a Wrath of the Data Center show that was based around the CCIE Data Center certification hosted by Tony Bourke but it withered away after only a couple of shows. There is a growing blogger community too and also a forum. PP has further presence on IRC, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Apart from the mostly great content, the thing that really works for me is how Ethan and Greg compliment each other so well. Add in Michele’s insane approach to introducing her show and in depth knowledge and it adds up to a fun learning experience. Expect a new show about once a week
  • No Strings Attached – love wireless? Then look no further. Hosts include Sam Clements, Jennifer Huber, Blake Krone and George Stefanick. The show is relatively new, hitting the airwaves in January 2012. This is obviously a more specialised show than some of the others but, already at show 19, they are still producing great content at about a show every 2-3 weeks. Topics include hardware from different vendors, software and the ever evolving 802.11 standards
  • Class C Block – this is the newest of the shows listed here, only producing it’s first show in September 2012. Since then the hosts, CJ Infantino and Matthew Stone, have produced a show roughly every 2-3 weeks, although it has sadly ground to a halt. Topics cover IPv6, studying, design, and MPLS. Give them your support by getting over there and having a listen and if you like, drop them a comment. There is nothing like positive feedback and high consumption figures to motivate more content. I found this podcast quite refreshing for the most part. You can sense the guys wanting to learn themselves as much as feed back to the community. Just a shame it ran out of steam
  • Risky Business – another more specialised and award winning show, this time focusing on security. This is the longest running show featured here having been born in February 2007 and produces a show every 1-2 weeks. Don’t feel overawed by the 200+ shows, go back up to six months and start from there, dipping in to any older shows that take your fancy
  • Social – a resource rich website, it focuses on what is for me, the most intriguing aspect to Information Security. The show itself started in October 2009 and is produced about once a month. Topics have included pretexting, NLP, penetration testing and Kevin Mitnick. The main host, Chris Hadnagy is excellent and he has a number of  supporting panelists, such as Dave Kennedy, who all offer something different to make this one of my favourites. The quality of the guests always impresses
  • Arrested DevOps – This is one of my favourite more recent podcasts with a good line up of industry folk and content. The show notes are always top notch with full transcriptions too. Some of the topics include hiring in IT and dealing with failure


Have I missed your favourite? If so, add it in the comments below with a brief synopsis as I have above. Try at least a couple from each of those listed above and let the hosts know what you think.

Till the next time.

(I always feel like) somebody’s watching me


Rockwell was a true visionary of his time. His mega hit of the 80’s after which this post is titled always takes me back to my childhood and puts a smile on my face. OK, perhaps I’ve given him too much credit in my opening statement but I was recently reminded of this song at an InfoSec event I attended in January. There were some great presentations from vendors, professionals and amateur hackers alike. It was one of these sessions in particular that made me go ‘wow’ so I thought I’d write it up.


I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. Imagine yourself walking through a busy city, perhaps on your daily commute or just sightseeing. How would you feel if at the end of the day, somebody who you had never met before approached you and showed you a picture of your house, told you where you worked and also which park you like to drop your kids off at each Saturday morning? Of course, things would be even more creepy if somebody had that information but decided to not tell you. It might sound like a bad movie plot. It might also sound like a scaremongering tale or at the very least, highly unlikely due to the assumed effort to collect such information.

Step in Snoopy, a distributed tracking and profiling framework. Using a geographical distribution of wireless access points (WAPs) called drones, they can track a person’s movements as they move around the catchment area. They do this using the MAC address of the mobile device you carry with you e.g. phone, iPad, etc. and take advantage of the chatty nature of WiFi enabled devices. Your device will broadcast on a regular basis trying to find every SSID it has connected to. To use some overly obvious examples, a phone could be trying to find the following wireless networks:

  • MyHomeHub3874
  • CompanyA-Guest
  • MoonBucksCoffee4242
  • CityYAirport

The drone devices themselves can be contained in a very small form factor. You could for example use a Raspberry Pi or even make a custom device. They can be battery powered but imagine one in a mains pluggable air freshener form factor. Blends in nicely and is continuously powered for free. They can be made for about £20-£30 so if anybody finds and removes one, the cost to replace is acceptable. By placing 50 or so of these around a city at key ‘people centric’ places such as train stations, shopping centres, sports stadiums etc., you can cover a large area very well.

The drones also have 3G or better to connect, via OpenVPN, to a server so that data collection can be centralised and also to provide Internet connectivity for clients when it wants to take things to the next level. Before I explore that though, you can see how the person mentioned at the start of this post could quickly glean the information he or she was after. As you walk past any of these droid APs, it detects the SSIDs that you have connected to and with a tip of the hat to Google with their massive war driving initiative as part of mapping the world, can determine the geographical locations of each of these. As long as the SSID is unique and has been mapped to a publicly accessible database, then it’s a breeze to link devices to locations. The next step, which is a bit more naughty is to use the AP as a classic rogue i.e. now allow the client to connect to it by spoofing the SSID. This only works on open networks i.e. those that haven’t been secured with WEP\WPA(2).

At this point, the mobile clients can start accessing the Internet via the rogue AP. This is bad enough yet to make matters worse the connection is proxied via the centralised server meaning that all traffic can be analysed further. That’s a lot of data being collated at the central server but the fun really begins when that data is processed for habits and patterns.


Although Snoopy is lesser known, many of you may already have heard of or even used Maltego. It is touted as an intelligence and forensics application which can mine a source of data (in our case, the data collected from the drones on the central server) and present it in a visual form. It allows the creation of custom transforms which analyses relationships between people, networks, websites, social services etc.

Putting it all together

Now imagine how these two tools can be combined. As our unsuspecting victim, you walk in to MoonBucks located near a drone device which listens to your phone’s broadcasts. The AP easily becomes MoonBucksCoffee4242 and your phone connects. You buy yourself a mocha choca latte with an extra shot and decide to check a couple of things online whilst you fuel up. You first head over to Facebook, then check your Twitter feed. Perhaps you also log on to LinkedIn, Google+ and whatever else takes your fancy.

Between Snoopy and Maltego, there is all sorts of interesting pwnage that can be had. As stated in my initial paragraph covering Snoopy, it is easy to see which SSIDs you have connected to and where they are located but as soon as you connect and start browsing, it can soon be determined relatively easily who you are based on the sites and profiles you are viewing.

Taking it further and introducing time based data i.e.  going beyond a single session, it can now be determined who you are and where you are. Over a period of time, patterns may show up that suggest you take sick days after a big sports event on a Sunday, on Wednesdays you work in a different office, the first day after pay-day you tend to be running an hour later than usual, etc.

Let’s consider a scenario that doesn’t require as much data crunching. If somebody wanted to track a particular person, one way to determine the MAC address of his mobile device would be to set up a droid at an event that person was known to be attending. Do this a couple more times at other events and then use Maltego to extract the unique MAC addresses. You might get lucky and whittle this down to a single MAC after only two events (i.e. the tracked person is the only one to attend both events), perhaps three or four but if you can now get that device to connect to the Internet via your AP, you can link all activity to that one person. I’ll leave it up to your imagination as to what devastation could ensue.


This is all relatively cheap to get set up and working. As a hacking project, I find this fascinating but it should be obvious how, in the wrong hands, your privacy could easily be torn down. Once you mine the data to a deeper level and begin to correlate the movements of multiple people, both physically and online, then your habits basically become an open book.

We are all accustomed to a seamless mobile experience these days but how do you mitigate this kind of attack? Again, it’s the ongoing balancing act between security and usability. This post is highlighting the possibility of such an attack. There are certain steps you can take to make sure you are not connecting to a rogue AP but it’s difficult to block many mobile devices from advertising the networks they have already connected to. This is all posted as food for thought and I hope it was of as interest to you as it was to me.

Till the next time.

Overview of Cisco Catalyst 3850 switch


As many of you will be aware, Cisco announced the release of the Catalyst 3850 switch at Cisco Live 2013 in London only last week. As I blogged at that time, this wasn’t the world’s best kept secret. Several people were talking about it online and I’d come across a few pages on different parts of Cisco’s website hinting that it was coming. There was mixed reaction to the news from ‘is this not just a 3750 with an integrated Wireless LAN Controller?’ to more warm and welcoming feedback. I’ll try and leave my own judgement until the end of the post but for now, let me list some of the specs of the 3850 and make the obvious comparison to the 3750X using data from Cisco’s website:

Comparison of Catalyst 3750-X and 3850 Switches

Features Cisco Catalyst 3750-X Cisco Catalyst 3850
Stacking bandwidth 64 Gbps 480 Gbps
Cisco IOS® Software wireless controller No Yes
Queues per port 4 8
Quality-of-service (QoS) model MLS MQC
Uplinks 4 x 1GE2 x 10GE NM4 x 1 GE or 2 x 10GE SM 4 x 1GE2 x 1/10GE4 x 1/10GE(on 48 port model)
StackPower Yes Yes
Flexible NetFlow support Yes (C3KX-SM-10G required) Yes
Multicore CPU for hosted services No Yes
Flash size 64 MB 2 GB
Operating system Cisco IOS Software Cisco IOS-XE Software

The first thing that is immediately obvious is I need to find a better way to format tables on my site!

The second thing is that, putting the integrated wireless functionality of the 3850 to one side for now, it is clear that the 3850 offers improvements in several areas; far greater bandwidth across a switch stack (where more than one of these switches are connected together as a single ‘virtual switch’. The actual stacking cables themselves are much improved too), more queues per port, a preferable QoS model and a move to IOS-XE which in itself has a number of improvements over vanilla IOS. Take a visit to various places on the web and you will find many more spec sheets that show improvements of all sorts e.g. more ACEs for security, QoS and PBR, a bigger TCAM and many more.

Integrated WLC

Whilst we all love having more of everything to play with on our favourite devices, I think that the feature that gives this announcement some punch is the wireless capabilities of the switch and all in a 1U form factor. You could also get this functionality in a 3750X but only on a 2U switch from what I recall. Of course, if you want to stack your switches and want redundancy in the WLC also, then 1U wins over 2U every time, 4U over 8U, etc.

The WLC integrated in to the 3850 has some features that you might want to see in any Cisco controller e.g. Clean Air, EnergyWise, QoS. One switch will support 50 WAPs and 2000 clients. Although I haven’t looked at purchasing these yet, I was told by a number of Cisco people at Cisco Live that the price is going to be comparable to a 3750X, but you will probably need to add on the WLC licencing to that base price.


If you consider that you are saving yourself the requirement for a standalone WLC on top of all of the increases in capabilities, the move to IOS-XE, the improvement in the stacking technology etc., the 3850 looks like a very capable and tempting upgrade to the 3750X. Cisco are classifying this product under Unified Access, bringing wired and wireless access in at the same point. I just wish I’d had the opportunity to put them in to our office network last year when I opted to use a pair of stacked 3750X switches with a 2504 WLC.

Till the next time.

New Year’s resolutions 2012

Just before the end of January hits us, I thought it would be a good idea to put my 2012 study wish list down in writing in the form of New Year’s resolutions. This will not only be a valuable checklist for me, but will provide motivation as the year moves on and putting it on my website will drive me on further.

I want to do the numbered items in that order. I’m being sensible this year as I want to make sure my CCNP reflects a good knowledge and not just good exam skills, especially with me only moving over to networking officially last year.

2013 should be even more exciting, but I’ll not be setting those goals in stone until nearer the time. I already have a good idea of what I want to do next year but I’ll be more focused if I keep that open and get my head down for the list below.

  1. CCNP ROUTE – having already passed the SWITCH exam at the tail end of 2011, I’ve already started studying for the ROUTE exam and have just about got EIGRP and OSPF out of the way. I’m hoping an IPv6 class I’m taking at Cisco Live London next week will help me in that area and that leaves BGP and route redistribution for when I return. However, I’m not in any rush and have a date for the exam of May time pencilled in
  2. CCNP TSHOOT – I want to give myself three months from passing ROUTE to have a go at this exam. Again, that’s plenty of time but I really want to make sure my CCNP is solid. After all, it’s just another step on the journey…one that never ends
  3. CCDA – no set time for this one other than just wanting it by the end of the year. I think design skills are critical for any IT engineer, but in particular in the field of networking. As well as giving you an understanding of why the pieces of the puzzle do, or perhaps do not work together when troubleshooting existing networks, it is a skill required of network architects
  4. CCNA specialism – not sure which one. I like the idea of doing the Wireless and I love the whole topic of IT security. Either way, I intend on getting both of them, but only have my sights set on one for 2012. With a new wireless deployment coming up at one of our offices, I think I may let that sway my decision for now

Till the next time.