Personal Security – Passports and Credit Cards with

I have had two conversations in the last two days that reminded me of the world that I live in. The world of the security informed and therefore the slightly paranoid, so may I offer some of my paranoia to you…

I received my new US Passport yesterday. There are no more choices with the US Passport; they all now come with a RFID chip embedded inside of them. So today I ordered a new wallet to go along with my new passport. Those two conversations were on this topic. So here is the scoop…

Many of our credit cards and our new passports have RFID chips embedded in them. The amount of information contained on these chips dose vary but what does not vary is the fact that it is information that we do not want to leave the safety of our wallets. These chips likely contain your name, your address, your account number or passport number and so on. There is both good and bad news with these wondrous new chips.

The good news: It is possible to move forward with technology in our daily lives. You can purchase tasty treats from a vending machine by waving your credit card in front of it instead of fighting with the machine to get it to accept that last dollar bill in your wallet that is crumpled and torn. Or pay for your groceries at the store by waving your credit card in front of the machine instead of dealing with the magnetic strip that just can’t be read today. (Have you ever had a store clerk place your credit card inside of a plastic bag and then run it through the reader – in the plastic bag?) These problems go away when you introduce the RFID chips. It is easier for Immigrations and Customs to spot faked passports now, shoot it is even harder for the bad guys to fake passports for that matter.

As with all good news, there is a flip side, the bad news. Some of the companies producing cards with RFID chips have acted responsibly by trying to protect our information with encryption, while some have not. Unfortunately even those companies that have tried to do good are up against some bad guys out there, the bad guys that try just a little harder, the bad guys that crack the encryption.

So what are we to do? We can debate whether these RFID chips should be used or not but unfortunately that will not help us protect ourselves in the here and now. So let’s work on that instead.

There are plenty of instructions available to the hackers of the world, so let’s protect ourselves! The attack against these are now being referred to as the Johnny Carson attack

The first step is to figure out if you have any of these chips in your wallet. You can usually see them when you look at your cards (to include your badges to get into the office as well). They are usually gold or silver in color and only a few centimeters square, about half the size of a dime. For the US passport, you can’t see the chip, but when you received your passport they told you that it contained sensitive electronics. If you don’t remember that paperwork it might be a time issue, these passport were issued within the last 2 or so years. The other option with the passport is the weight and thickness of the cover. The old passports were bendable, the new ones are not so.

The second step is to find out if there is a way to disable these chips. If you are not in need of the convenience of flashing your credit card in front of a reader rather than through a reader I would suggest disabling. One company that definitely allows you to disable these chips is American Express. I would recommend checking your banks website or simply giving them a call for assistance.

The third step is to protect your information on these chips. If it is a work badge, a Visa card, a Master card or your passport you may not have the choice of disabling them. So the next step is to carry them in a secure wallet or holder. There are many on the market now and they come in a variety of shapes, colors and styles. I would highly recommend looking for a vendor that says that their wallet/holder is FIPS-201 compliant, otherwise you may only think you are protected.

Some of the options that I would recommend looking at are the following. If these do not suit your style or need then I would recommend googling “RFID blocking FIPS wallet” or something to that effect.

For your work badge holder my recommendation would be

For your passport or credit cards there are two basic options. The first option is a sleeve that the card/passport slides into and then you can place it in your regular wallet. The second basic option is a new wallet.

The sleeves are generally cheaper than a whole new wallet, but which will work best for you is up to you.

For a sleeve you can look at

If you are looking for a wallet the expensive, but nice looking wallets (men and women’s) can be found at or check our (men’s only)

Be safe

25 Random Things about Me

1. I feel a bit like the guy on the show The Pretender (not intelligence level though). I have sold cars, catered Cajun, worked in a fish market, rode my bicycle 1500 miles in 2 years, taught networking/security, worked in a quilt store, owned two fruit stores and yet i still don’t know what i will be when i grow up
2. I am going to ride another bike ride this year, 300 miles this time
3. I once had an airline pilot say to me “I have not seen you in a while”
4. I once had a gate agent ask me where I have been since he had not seen me in a while.
5. I am in a permanent fight against back pain
6. I love Sushi… it is perhaps my favorite food (well after chocolate)
7. I love to cut fish and I miss cutting Salmon the most (although I sure did stink after work when I did)
8. I miss catering, I actually love the long hard days of physical labor. It is a great feeling to work hard, know you worked hard, and be able to see the results of your labor.
9. I still want to fly a jet off and onto a carrier
10. One of the sweetest men I know is dying form ALS ;( (Lou Gehrig Disease)
11. I miss being loved by a good man
12. I am about to be homeless and I am not sure where I will sleep when I am not traveling
13. I have some of the most amazing friends who have helped me through the last 2 years
14. My ex-husband actually abandoned me
15. I quilt a lot, although not at much as i would like to
16. I have sold almost all of my worldly possessions. All that is left fits in a 5×10 storage unit
17. I don’t know where in the world (literally) I will move to next
18. I live a very solitary life and there are times I so miss having friends around me
19. The man who believed in me and helped me start my first business is dying from multiple myeloma ;(
20. I am thankful for my family and the love and support they provide
21. I so miss my dogs and cats (I had to give them up because I will be homeless soon)
22. I want to get back on a normal bike (I ride a recumbent) but I am so afraid of the possible back pain
23. I want to take a vacation to South Africa, Egypt or Australia this year
24. I will get my body into great physical condition this year
25. I often wonder where will my life take me next

P!NK Widgets

Our New President

Growing up in the DC area produces one of two types of people, best I can figure.  You either love politics, or hate it.  Personally I have been a part of the latter for my entire life, until now.  I was priviledge to be out of this coutry when we elected our new president (I did vote early though).  It was a special gift to be able to feel what others outside of this country felt about Obama and it was a good thing.  The US has many enemies, many that do not like us, and many that are agravated as to how we have impacted the world over the last many years.  Obama seems to bring a ray of hope to so many that the US will once again become a nation that positively impacts the world.

It has also been interesting to watch this election within the US.  I have friends who love and support Obama, and friends that seem to despise him.

I am sure of one thing though.  Even though all may not agree with his personal opinions on some topics he has brought a feeling of joy and hope to the world that has not existed in a long time.  I firmly believe that the president alone cannot repair our nation or take it to a higher level.  It is only when individuals are involved and believe that something more is possible, that something more can happen.  This election and inauguration have brought so many together, I hope and pray that we can continue to build on this feeling.

There is so much talk about a black man finally being the president, and I agree that is a wonderful thing.  But strangely I do not seem him as black.  He is just as much a white man as he is a black man.  His skin is simply a little darker in color.  And I beleive that somewhere in his upbringing his parents raised him to understand that he fits squarely among both sides of our population.  It is through him that the sides can disappear and we can just simply exist as Americans.

I was recently teaching in Germany and the feeling of disgrace over what Hitler did was almost palpable.  It is almost the same here in the US with our white history of slavery over the black population.  If we can rise beyond this, I believe we are a ray of hope for other nations that they too can heal their wounds.

Men and women will continue to fight and argue around the world.  That is unfortunatley part of the nature of being human.  But it is possible for us to agree to disagree on topics so that we can live in a peacful world.

May our new president show the world a way to accomplish that through his words and, more importantly, his actions.

Men… I wonder…

I am now 40 years old.  I have been married twice, and twice I have had the man who said that they loved me take so much from me.  I have lost so much in this last divorce.  I have almost nothing left, but what I do have is my health and my ability to work.  I have lost my retirement funds, I have lost my savings, I have lost almost all of my possessions, and yet still I have a pile of bills that are sky high.

I find it hard to explain how a man can walk away from the woman whom he has declared his love.  Yet that is what my husband did.  He left like a thief in the night taking everything I knew with him.  He left me with all of the bills and has yet to give me a dime to help cover them.

I have done so much in my lifetime.  So many wonderful accomplishments and yet I sit here in my very empty home wondering what day it will be that the bank or the courts will throw me out.  I have worked in a fish market, I have catered Cajun and Creole, I have taught networking and security around the world, I have ridden my bicycle from Fairbanks to Anchorage and from Minneapolis to Chicago, and yet I have no idea where I will be even next week.

I have come to the conclusion that marriage is an outdated custom that does not serve women in todays society, with few exceptions.  I will never marry again although that does not mean that I am not interested in a powerful life long commitment to a wonderful and loving partner.  Yet I have no idea where in the world I will find that man.  Is there someone out there for me?

I am strong willed, opinionated and almost never home.  Where do I find a man who can love me?  Over the last year I have found a wonderful man or two, but they are married.  Isn’t there some wonderful quote about all the good ones are taken….

Now What…

I received word from my realtor last week that it appears that the short sale on my house is going to go through.  Now what?  I am going to be homeless.  I have been working my way towards being homeless for some time now.  It sounds so bad in our culture to be ‘homeless’ but due to my lifes circumstances I have been working towards this by choice.  I have sold almost everything I can.  I have condensed my life to a 5×10 storage unit.  I am looking for a room with some friendly person/couple to stay in when I am not on travel (and I think I may have found that room).

But where will life take me next?

Your Trip Pro – Traveler tip

As pretty much everyone that knows me knows I travel quite a bit.  So I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks with you.

One of my favorites is that I have become my own travel agent.  Rather than giving the commissions off of my own travel to others.  I have my own travel web site. The prices on my site are usually cheaper than travelocity, sometimes only by a few dollars, but the commission comes to me.

So for you I offer possibly cheaper prices for your travel.  If my price is the same or less than other sites please consider booking your travel with me.

Or if you travel a lot, or have lots of friends that travel, you too can become a travel agent.  If you would like information please feel free to contact me or check out this link for more details.


Lets start with Passwords… we all have ’em… we all need ’em… and they are out of control!  My preference for storing all of those passwords is a free little program from CounterPane called Password Safe.  It allows you to store all of your passwords in one safe, encrypted, location.  You must remember one password in order to access the safe, but once you are in you have all of your passwords nicely listed and arranged.  It also has the very nice feature of creating random passwords for you to increase the general strength of your passwords.

When you need to log into something simply open password safe, scroll down until you locate the one you need, double click on it and now you can simply paste it into the password box in your application.  Memory is cleared so it will not remain there for some nefarious thief to steal later.

Very very useful!  Cudos to CounterPane for making this and making it available to the general public for free.

You can download from here:

Hello world!

Welcome to my website and blog.  A little about myself…

I spend most of my time traveling around the world (mostly US and Europe) talking about Information Security.  Most of the classes I teach these days are CISSP review courses, although I currently also teach SSCP, and Security +.  I have my own company with a couple of great partners (  Although training and education is my passion I occasionally join the others in pen tests or the like.

If you are interested in tracking my travel and the classes I am teaching you can do so at:

You can also find me at: