Happy New Year!

10 Jan 2024 - Cooper Hopkin

It’s been a long year, and it’s only January 10th.

Some updates in the month since my last post:

All in all, it was a pretty busy year. My wife and I went through all of things we’ve done and trips we’ve gone on, and let me just say, I’m surprised neither of us has become terminally ill out of sheer exhaustion. At least three major trips, two nasty semesters for me, some seriously unfortunate and emotionally heartbreaking stuff at her job, moving, Saintcon, every holiday with its associated stresses, a few big parties, friends visiting from out of the country, some concerts, some rough family get-togethers, and some medical emergencies. And oh yeah, GETTING MARRIED. That was kind of a really big deal with a lot of related stress. Planning a wedding is hard, and I really didn’t even bear the brunt of it. If anyone ever innocuously asks you to help them plan a wedding, consider two things: how much do you love that person, and how much do care for your physical and emotional well-being.

But really, the amount that I’ve learned in the year has been proportional to how busy I’ve been. Sure, I’m going to school full-time, working 30 hours a week at my “real” job, and at least 10 hours a week for my internship, but the amount I’ve learned and been able to do because of all of things is incredible. I’ve learned how cybersecurity for industrial control systems works, I’ve started to actually comprehend how managing a network for a massive organization works, and I’ve been able to learn and network a ton though school and my jobs. I’ve had opportunities I probably wouldn’t have received if it weren’t for all of the projects I’m doing. And with Saintcon specifically, I’ve learned just how important it is to network, and I’ve started actively talking to industry professionals (If you’re in IT or cybersecurity and want to talk, feel free to email me or shoot me a message on LinkedIn).

I’m still playing with microcontrollers. I’ve been a bit fixated on custom keyboards, so I’ve somewhat moved away from sensors and datalogging. I got myself an Adafruit Macropad, which is basically an RP2040 microcontroller (the same one a Raspberry Pi Pico has) that’s been pre-wired to connect GPIO pins to 12 buttons, a rotary encoder, and an OLED display. Because you’re programming it yourself, you can do about a thousand different things with it, but I’ve started building an actual macropad (buttons that are basically mapped to computer hotkeys) with a ton of different functions. There can only really be 12 sets of macros at a time (13, if you count the rotary button), but you can switch between macro mappings with the rotary encoder. It’s been a ton of fun to play with so far.

Like I said above, I also got a position on a team participating in Cyber 9/12. It’s a competition all about cybersecurity policy. Basically, they give you a “briefing packet,” which contains details and sources for a fictional cyber crisis, and you have to come up with policy recommendations to address that crisis. In the tryouts, they had us come up with a response to a cyber attack on some major banks that basically started scrambling account balance details. We had to summarize the crisis, analyze potential outcomes, and recommend policies based on that analysis. The briefing packet had the actual brief from the National Security Council, some news articles, and a couple of captured communications between a known zero-day broker and an APT. Then we had two (I think, it might have been a bit longer) days to prepare a one page response (which is trickier than it sounds) and a 10 minutue maximum oral presentation.

The competition goes the same way. You get the packet, and you and your team have two days to prepare a response and presentation. Then if you advance to the next round, the cyber crisis “advances” (the situation gets worse, basically), and you have 12 hours to prepare a response. Then the same thing happens in the next round, except you only have an hour (I think). In the final round, you have 15 minutes. Its stressful, hectic, and sounds like a good time. It’s a great competition for me, because it challenges me to think in a way that I normally wouldn’t. In IT and cybersecurity, I’ve been looking at systems. Hardware and software. I know how to build a system, set it up, troubleshoot it, and secure it. I also know how to test those defenses so I can try to break in. But how often do I (or really anyone in my career path) have to think about national and international policy? Just about never. I’ve always prided myself on my people skills. My Mom’s a nurse, and my Dad was an actor and a teacher. And they’re both damn good at what they do. I was taught from an early age how to think in different ways, how to look at both quantitative and qualitative data and combine it to acheive a conclusion. This is the perfect chance to see how well I can demonstate that ability.

So yeah, I’ve been busy. But it’s all been worth it.

– Cooper

Bash has always been fun for me. I’m getting more into scripting it as I realize how useful it is.

hello_name () {
    echo "Hello, ${1}!"

hello_name "World"