Russell Howell

Russell Howell

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Russ Howell and I am the senior consultant at FINAO LLC. I entered the IT field in 1994 as a bench tech, and left the corporate slave ship in 1999 as IT Director for a Fortune 500 division. FINAO started as an IT services company for healthcare, you know server builds, broken printers fixed etc. Over the past five years we have moved away from network/hardware as our focus and into security and media.

I do mostly Risk Assessments, policy and procedure audit and authoring, and firewalls and VPN’s. However I have also done physical pen testing, red teaming and even work “undercover” as an employee for process and stop loss audits. Oh and we get the occasional “I think my office is bugged” call. Unfortunately some of the jobs we do end in closings, arrests, and terminations so physical threats are real.

What hardware & operating systems do you use?

I am rarely in our office, so I live out of a Vertx bag most days. It’s usual contents include HP Elitebook 2540P from the refurb shelf (love the little flip out light for the keyboard) it normally runs Win7 pro, but I also have Tails on USB and 8.1 E on USB. The working tools are Open Office, ZenMap, John The Ripper, Backtrack and Wireshark. Twitter, and Wordpress along with Evernote and Firefox with Ghostery or Chrome are mainly where I spend time

Also in the bag is a small USB battery pack for recharging the Samsung 4s, IronKey thumb drives and Ironkey USB hard drives, a pair of mini binoculars, pens, Rite-in Rain pad, entry kit, Fenix flashlight, Israeli trauma bandage, Swiss Army Knife, patch cables, Business cards etc. Oh and a Fuente Cigar and an ITS Tactical Urban kit (modified).

On bigger jobs a second bag with an aging Pentax DSLR and lenses, Uniden BCD436HP scanner, Optoelectronics Scout, and other OPSEC sensitive equipment.

At the office we have 3 Wintel Servers (Quad core, multi processor, raid 5 and 10 arrays) for VM’s and to brute force with, and my antique PC which is used for well, office work. It’s an old Emachine with Win7 64bit and multiple video cards so I can multi-task on two 23” Samsung displays.

Furniture is an old 6 foot long table, Black and Decker coffee pot and whatever chair I steal from other tenants in the building that day.

What would be your dream setup?

Moving that way before year end. Likely a Macbook Air, but might also look into a Chromebook or even a surface. I am most anxious to add more staff and get away from the mundane. I really enjoy doing employee security awareness training for clients along with the red-team/pen testing so my goal is to lighten up my daily gear and make my office fit entirely on a 3-4lb device and everything else in my pockets unless I am on an active Pen test job.

As the office grows (we really just have a big “team room” now), I’d like to turn one of our server class units into a quad monitor workstation running a VM or three. Being a news-junky I could dedicate one 35” display to news, one to stocks, one to email and one to actual work. Oh and a couple of drones one for camera and wireless work and one to fetch me coffee and scare off interns.