Writing UNSECURITY Journey – UPDATE

A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, Unsecurity: Information security is failing. Breaches are epidemic. How can we fix this broken industry?

This is just a quick update post. After the planning article, I thought I should take my own advice and plan out the rest of the series for you. Eating my own dog food, isn’t that what they say?

This is the entire series:

Finally, after the series is completed, I will wrap all the posts into one and make it a free ebook for anyone who’s interested.

That’s it for this update. Now you know what to expect. Hope you enjoy!

Subscribe if you want to follow along. The subscribe button on the top of the right pane works like a charm!

Writing UNSECURITY Journey –Planning

A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, Unsecurity: Information security is failing. Breaches are epidemic. How can we fix this broken industry?. This is the fourth post in the series.

The others…

Once I had the idea for the book and found the courage to write one, I started planning. Honestly, I had no idea what I was planning at the time, but I think I was pretty good at faking it.

Planning

If you’re going to write a book, you need to have a plan. You could do what I did. I thought I had a plan, but I later found out that I had no clue. One word sums up my plan, naïve. I was naïve to think that writing a book would be simple, and I was too proud to ask someone for guidance.

Here’s the deal. I had zero experience writing books. What would make me think that I knew what it takes to write a book? The answer is pride. I got this! So, I planned like any cavalier neophyte would. I didn’t.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did plan one thing. I planned time off to write. I set aside two full weeks to write the book. I would take two weeks, write the book, and life would be grand. After that, I’ll just give the book to our marketing team, and they’ll come back with a finished, published book. Simple, right?

Except that’s not how it works.

First off, you don’t write a book in two weeks. Not this kind of book anyway. Maybe it’s been done somewhere before by someone with super special powers, but normal people don’t write books in two weeks. Normal people take months, and even years to write a book.

Second, there’s a helluva lot more to writing a book than writing. It’s a pipe dream to think that I could write a book, go away for some period of time, and voila, a published book.

I sort of had a plan, but my planned sucked.

If would have taken the time to stop, ask questions of other authors, and listened to what they had to say, I would have known to plan much better than I did. The lack of planning led to unrealistic expectations of myself and others. It made the journey less pleasurable than it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, writing this book was an amazing experience, it just could have been amazinger.

Some of the things I didn’t know, and I wish I would have asked a fellow author about:

  1. How long it takes to write a book?
  2. How long should a book like mine be?
  3. What comes after writing a book draft?
  4. How much fighting with myself that I’d have to endure?
  5. How to overcome the times of despair?

There’s probably more, but you get the gist.

My (naïve) Plan

Get this. I was dumb enough to think I could write a book in two weeks! The notion started with a discussion I had with a colleague who suggested that I take two weeks off, get away, and write the book. He said that I’d probably knock most of it out if I was able to get in a quiet place and focus. There’s a problem with this advice, it was given by someone who’d never written a book before. If only I had known.

So, I booked two weeks away in Cancun to write. The first week, I would be completely by myself. I would be in isolation so I could write. The second week, I would be joined by my wife and my 13-year-old daughter. In the second week, I would write all day and spend the late afternoons and evenings with my family. Sounds like a helluva plan!

My goal was to have my draft completed before I was going to leave on vacation in March. This means the plan was to start writing the book on January 6th, 2018 and complete the first draft 76 days later on March 23rd, 2018. Piece of cake.

I would later learn, sometime in April, after the draft was completed, that writing a book like this in 76 days was insane! Why did I learn this later? Pride kept me from asking anyone.

Your Planning

I learned some things about planning and book writing (now), and I hope you learn from my mistakes. Here’s a shortlist of tips for you as you begin planning your first book (or even latter ones):

Ask for advice. Don’t think you know how to do something that you’ve never done before. An experienced author would have told me what to expect, would have helped me plan better, and quite frankly would have helped me create a better book.

Planning to write is only one part of planning a book. Set aside time each day. The time you set aside is sacred writing time. Writing only. Even if you don’t feel like it some days, fight through it. Even if you just sit there staring at the screen, it’s still set aside writing time.

Other planning that I didn’t do, that I most certainly will do next time:

  • Marketing the book. I think book marketing should start before you start writing. Think about who’s going to find value in your book, who’s going to read your book, and how you’re going to reach them with a message that will get them to buy your book. This a bigger plan than you think, and you’re probably going to need some help.
  • Publishing. Who’s going to publish the book? If you’re going to self-publish, you might want to read up on what this all entails. If you’re going to engage a publisher, it probably makes sense to identify potential publishers now. Publishers will cost you money, so a budget should be created. Identifying and engaging a publisher can be a project by itself. Once engaged, they will help with other parts of your plan.
  • Other help. What other help might I need, how will I find them, how much will it cost, and when will I need them? Will I need a ghost writer, one or more editors (yes), one or more proofreaders (yes), a book designer, etc.? How about endorsements? If your planning to work with a publisher, they can help you with most of these things. If your self-publishing, you’ve got more research to do.

Establish a rough timeline. I don’t suggest that you try to write a book in 76 days, or less. I suggest you find someone who can coach you and help you set appropriate expectations. Deadlines are good for some people and sticking to a timeline works. For others, deadlines and timelines only add unnecessary stress. Turns out, it’s not necessarily how much I write each day that matters as much as that I write each day.

WARNING: Don’t use planning as an excuse for writing. At some point, it’s time to write.

Advice

Don’t make the same mistake I did. If you’ve never written a book before, ask someone for advice, preferably someone who has written a book before. My failure to seek advice led to a very unhealthy 76 days, and it also led me to write twice as much content than I needed. The stress in writing a book in such a short period of time is grueling, and writing twice as much as I needed was just wasted effort.

I didn’t discover that my timeline was unrealistic or about the wasted effort until I finally asked someone who knew. My original 500+ pages in the draft wound up being 288 pages in the published book. Ugh!

UNSECURITY Podcast Episode 13

Each Friday, I’m going to do my best to post the notes for the UNSECURITY Podcast episode that Brad Nigh and Evan Francen (me) will record on the following Monday morning. Each week, Brad and I alternate leading episodes, so I lead the odd episodes and Brad leads the even ones.

These are the notes we use to guide our discussion.

Show Notes

Monday, February 4th, 2019 @ 6:45am

OK, here we go. Today is Monday, February 4th, 2019, and this is episode 13 of the UNSECURITY Podcast. My name is Evan Francen and joining me as always is Mr. Brad Nigh. Good morning Brad, how are you today?

Also joining Brad and me is a special guest, Assistant Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives and FRSecure’s Chief Storyteller, Jim Nash. Welcome Jim.

As you know, this is my day to lead the show.

We had an eventful week last week. The Polar Vortex, board meetings, travel stories, a panel discussion, and some incident response stuff.

We have a lot to cover in this week’s episode! Let’s get going.

Speaking of incident response stuff… I want to discuss two topics with you guys this morning, and I’d like to start with incident response, more specifically the importance of incident response planning.

The Importance of Incident Response Planning

  • A couple of incidents that you and I worked on last week.
  • In all the calls we’ve received for incident response, how many of the companies had an incident response plan? Can you name one?
  • Last week’s trip and the IRT meeting
  • Talk about another incident or two? How would’ve an incident response plan helped

What’s happening at the State/States – State of Minnesota

State Security Conference

  • Jim, you recently attended a pretty important security event.
  • You attended the NCSL (National Convention of State Legislatures)
  •  You’re one of 22 legislators from across the nation on the task force.
  • “We talked about the California initiative for IOT security, Elections Cyber, GDPR and the California initiative to Americanize it, the veracity of consolidated IT to reduce risk, and pudding” – the “pudding” part is/was a joke

If you have thoughts or suggestions for us about the UNSECURITY Podcast, you can email the show at unsecurity@protonmail.com.

Topics for Discussion

Any other topic before we get into some of the news?

Recent News

The BIG NEWS of the week – On Monday, news broke about an Apple FaceTime bug
It’s crazy how quickly these things blow up, among the stories:

Other News

2.2B hacked user details found in new ‘Collections’ freely shared databases and 2.2 billion emails found in new Collection data dumps

Criminals Are Tapping into the Phone Network Backbone to Empty Bank Accounts (This was the only news story I saw about this)

Lastly, if we have time:
Microsoft 365 Underwent Two Day Outage, Outlook and Exchange Down

Closing

Be sure to follow Evan (@evanfrancen), Brad (@BradNigh), and Jim (@JimNashMN). Also, be sure to send your questions and suggestions to us at unsecurity@protonmail.com

Catchup on past episodes of the UNSECURITY Podcast here, or on you’re favorite podcast app.

See you next week!

Writing UNSECURITY Journey – Encouragement

A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, UNSECURITY. This is the third post in the series. The other two posts in the series are the Introduction and The Idea. As I continue to expand this series, I will add a table of contents. This will make it easier for everyone to follow.

Introduction

The first time I thought of writing a book was four or five years ago. It was an idea, but it wasn’t a serious one. It wasn’t until late 2017 that the idea became more than that. What I was lacking was encouragement.

I’m sure that there are authors who have written books with little or no encouragement, but not this guy. Being an author takes independence, but not isolation. For me, I needed someone to convince me to act on my idea, to lift me up when I didn’t feel like writing anymore, to help alleviate my fears, to impart wisdom, and someone who would sacrifice something with me.

Some of these things were stated in the book’s Acknowledgements, but here I’m stating them for a different purpose. I want to be honest with you, give examples of encouragement during my book writing struggles, and hopefully inspire you to write yourself.

James Williams

There’s plenty of backstory, but it was late 2017 when James told me that I must write a book. At the time, James was the president of FRSecure and SecurityStudio. He played (and plays) a critical role in our business success. If you know James, he’s not the sort of guy that takes no for an answer. Because of his passion and personality, I had no choice but to listen. So, I did.

James is bought in to our mission, to fix the broken information security industry, so he’s also someone that I trust. Long story short, James got my attention and encouraged me to write. He also made several suggestions along the way, gave me the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (highly recommended) to read, gave me time to write, and set deadlines.

All these things were great, but it was the encouragement that made the difference.

My Wife

Obviously, this short list of people who encouraged me is not in order of importance. If it were, then my wife would have been listed first. My wife sacrificed time, put up with my grumpiness, and partnered with me as only a wife can. There were many mornings that I was up at 3:00am to write. Getting up at 3:00am each morning, came with consequences. Despite the consequences, my wife continued in her unwavering encouragement. She always saw the bigger picture and helped me see it too.

She encouraged me and built me up all along the way.

Suzy Fiene

Suzy was my book buddy. She has years of experience in writing and marketing. She was the perfect fit to help me throughout the book writing process. Despite all her skills and experience, it was her encouragement that mattered most.

Co-workers

Writing a book, especially on a short timeline, is a grueling effort. Don’t think for a second that it doesn’t affect other parts of your life, including the relationships you have with your co-workers. This was true with me. At work, we’re a team and we’re a family. My team and my family always deserve my best, and the time that goes into book writing is less time with them. During the book writing process, my co-workers didn’t get the best out of me. Some (or a lot) of me when into the book.

Time and time again, my co-workers encouraged me and showed a genuine excitement for the book.

Others

The list of other encouragers is long, and I won’t be able to list them all. I encourage you to read the Acknowledgements section of the book, because you’ll find some of these people listed there. From my publisher, to ghost writer, to editor, to proofreader, to designer, and on and on. The role that each of these people played in the book will be covered in subsequent posts within this series. The process for me wasn’t as straightforward as it may seem. If each person didn’t play their role, the book wouldn’t be what it is.

Advice

Whether you want to write a book, or if you’re in the middle of a book, you’re going to need encouragement. Find the encouragers and listen to them. If you encounter a critic or two (or ten) along the way, ignore them and run to your source(s) of encouragement. If you have trouble finding someone to encourage you, I will. Get in touch with me.

Next post is about planning. A book requires time to write and making time requires planning. After writing, comes all the other things that go into book production, and those things all need plans too.

Writing UNSECURITY Journey – The Idea

A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, UNSECURITY. This is the second post in the series. The series started with the Introduction.

This is where the book started. The journey began. I had an idea. Before I wrote a single word of the book, I had to have an idea.

Let me explain my idea, including where it came from, and let’s see if you can find your idea too!

My Idea

So, I had this crazy idea. Not an idea really, but a mission.

My earliest recollection of the mission was soon after I worked my last “real” job, and just as we were starting this little information security consulting company called FRSecure.

We started FRSecure in 2008, and we started it with this notion that we were going to do information security the right way. We weren’t going to play politics, we weren’t going to cut corners, we were always going to tell the truth, and we were only going to work on problems that needed solutions. We started our information security careers working for large companies. Large companies where politics, cutting corners, telling less than the truth, and just working for the sake of working seemed like the norm.

In 2010, I met my soon to be business partner Kevin, and one day he asked me why we do things the way we do things, and my answer without even thinking was, we exist to fix the broken information security industry. At the time, we had three employees. Crazy, right?! If I were a sane person, I’d have two questions right there:

  1. What exactly is broken in our industry?
  2. How do three people intend to fix what’s broken?

The answer to the first sane question is, there are many things that are broken in our industry. We don’t speak the same language, we don’t build security programs with solid foundations, we buy a lot of snake oil solutions that don’t really fix our most important problems, we say one thing and do another, we don’t have enough talent to do the work, etc. Years later these things ended up becoming chapters in the UNSECURITY book.

The answer to the second question is, we don’t. Three people can’t possibly fix an entire industry, but three people can inspire others to join the cause. As more people join the cause, the industry begins to change. Today, FRSecure has grown to more than 70 employees, and the company has more than 20 partners. Each employee is committed to the mission and our partners participate whether they’re completely committed or not. The way we apply the mission locally in our work is we ask ourselves a simple question all the time:

Will this project or solution (not product) contribute to fixing the industry or will it contribute to the industry’s brokenness? If it’s the former, we do it. If it’s the latter, we pass.

The mission is a little less crazy today, but it’s probably still crazy.

In all of this is the idea. My idea is we have this broken information security industry, and I will write about that. The idea morphed into the theme for the book. It’s about what’s broken in our industry and ideas for how we can fix things.

Everything worthwhile starts as an idea. The UNSECURITY book started this way. I think all books start this way.

What’s your idea?

If you were going to write a book, what would you write a book about? For me, it was about my mission, my passion. I’m an optimist and I like to think I see the best in people. I actually believe that every person has a mission and a thing (or issue/topic) that they’re passionate about. Some people know their mission and passion, and sadly some people don’t.

For those of you who know your mission and passion, do you think you can find an idea for your book somewhere in the midst of that mission and passion? If so, find it. Write it down. This is it!

For those of you who don’t know your mission and passion, I wish I had some magic pill you could take, or some easy button you could push. You may not care, but I can tell you that living a life with a mission, and living life with passion are incredible gifts. It’s not that you don’t have a mission, it’s that you haven’t found it. Don’t stop looking until you find it, and once you do, go for it!

For those of you who know your mission, and you’ve chosen to not follow it. Find the courage to follow your mission. The fulfillment, joy, and sense of satisfaction found in following your own personal mission can’t be understated.

To summarize; find your mission, find your passion, and once you do, tell the rest of the world about it. Choose to write about it!

Caveat: I suppose you could probably write a book about something that’s not missional, or about some topic that you’re not passionate about. For me, this would have been hell. I would have never made it through the hard days if I was writing about something I didn’t care deeply about. Believe me, there will be hard days.

Next Post

The next post will be about encouragement. Just having an idea and passion wouldn’t have gotten the first book done. I needed someone to push me and encourage me to do it. I’m going to go through the story of how I was encouraged to write my first book, and I’m even going to name names!

Stay tuned!

Writing UNSECURITY Journey – Introduction

A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, UNSECURITY. This is the first in the series.

So, I wrote my first book. You probably know this already. What you don’t know is what writing a book is like, unless of course you’ve written one yourself. For me, it was one helluva journey. Like I said in the opening of the UNSECURITY book:

This is the first book I’ve ever written. Writing a book is a bitch.

This isn’t entirely true. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t tell you the whole truth either. There were parts and times that were a bitch for sure, but there were also parts and times that were amazing, almost glorious. Probably more amazing than bitch, but bitch sounded better at the time.

Why do I want to write this series?

The simple answer is to inspire and encourage people. I want to share my book writing journey with you to inspire you to write your first book, and to encourage you if you’re (maybe stuck) in the middle of writing your first book.

Sounds corny, I know. Whatever, it’s true, so let me tell you more.

People are amazing! People are also frustrating and mean, but this is maybe a topic for another day. For now, people are amazing. Along the book writing journey, I’ve learned a lot about people, and I’ve learned that there must be something special about book writing.

How so?

Because almost everyone I’ve talked to has been intrigued by it. While writing the book, and even after publication, people seem to open up when they hear about it. They share comments like “I’ve thought about writing a book before” or “I’d like to write a book someday”. The conversations about book writing often end up being wonderful discussions about all sorts of deeper topics. Refreshing, when so many conversations today are of the surfacy sort of “how you doing” variety.

From the conversations, I’ve come to believe that there are five types of people when it comes to book writing:

  1. Those who will not write a book. Several reasons, but they just won’t, ever.
  2. Those who have some desire or interest in writing a book someday.
  3. Those who will soon start writing a book.
  4. Those who have started writing their first book.
  5. Those who have written a book. Maybe even more than one.

If you’re the first type, maybe you’ll find some entertainment in this series, but I’m not writing these posts for you.

If you’re any one of the types 2 through 4, you’re the bullseye, I am writing for you!

Type 5ers, you might empathize with what I’ll write, if you’ve got the time to read what I’ll write. I hope you enjoy.

Quick. I think there’s a lesson here already. Target audience. My target audience is defined. Now I’ll write to you. I think this is important in book writing. Always keep your target audience in mind. I like to think that I’m speaking to my target audience face-to-face. I don’t know if this makes the book any better, but it does make it easier to write!

If you have a desire or interest in writing a book someday, will soon start writing a book, or have started writing your first book, I hope that sharing my story will inspire you and/or encourage you! If you just want to know what it was like for me, that’s fine too.

I intend to write a few posts/week until I’ve completed my journey with you. My journey is packed with more struggles, triumphs, and personal drama than you’ll be expecting. I’m sure of this. The personal part of the journey will make it more relevant and fun.  I didn’t start with any plan, and I have no outline, so I don’t know how many posts this series will end up being. It will just be what it will be.