Security Musings

Security Musings

Information Security Travel Guide

Stephen Northcutt, an Information Security Researcher, United Airlines 1k, Writer and Instructor, documents the struggles of the travel and hospitality industries as we all face continually increasing energy costs. He and his peers share their travel experiences and give you quick tips and short reviews of the companies they do business with as they travel. If you came across this article because of a Google search, what you want is probably here, just use find with your browser (CTRL - F), it is easier than reading from top to bottom; however, you may get some useful tips if you stick around and read. Each major cluster of trips is documented in a separate file.

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Information Security Travel Guide Edition 20 - Stephen Northcutt


By Stephen Northcutt, Google+
For several years Stephen Northcutt has been documenting business (and a small amount of personal) travel as he works as a researcher of security management. He has blogged through the United bankruptcy, the great recession, the recovery with its fits and starts and documents the way travel keeps getting harder while at the same time more expensive. From time to time he will have a travel tip to share. We welcome you to this edition of the Infosec Travel Guide.


[Saturday, December 31, 2011] Happy New Year

I will make this the last post for the year and start up 2012 with Edition 21 of the travel guide.

Hunter, Kathy and I just took a walk to Kealia, did not see monk seals, but we did see whales jumping out of the water and having a great time. The flight home was miserable, but we made it. Our first flight was late, United 6095, so we missed our connecting flight. United booked us on American to get to LAX, but it was late too; we still did not get our connector to Kauai so we were stuck in LAX. Since we had flown American, we would have to go through security to get to United customer service to ask for a hotel voucher so we tried the United ticket counter since we would need boarding passes anyway. Barbara Lewis, Service Director refused to help us, she would not check to see if we could leave our checked bags, she would not issue a voucher; she truly should not be the the service director. Fortunately an African American gentleman named Wagner who was a Continental employee was able to assist. He had a friend that worked in United baggage claim and called her; she found our bags and then he gave us a voucher for a hotel and two $15.00 meals. We were then able to get home the next day on another United flight.


[Wednesday, December 21, 2011] Thinking about Christmas

I think I am going to be doing the whole Christmas dinner and that is fine. I bought a small sirloin roast from Wal-Mart, put some olive oil in a skillet and browned the outside. Then I set it in the oven at 350 degrees. I started a gravy based on chicken stock and an onion with garlic, thyme and some Hawaiian hot pepper. Then I cooled the gravy. When the roast was done, I cut it immediately into slices and tossed them into the gravy to quit cooking.


[Tuesday, December 20, 2011] Sorry about the huge gap

My HP Windows 7 laptop died and I did not have access to an html editor on MAC OS Lion. Finally Diane turned me on to SeaMonkey. It is great to be back online. We got back from San Antonio, had a few days in Richmond VA, then took the train up to Washington DC for SANS CDI. I taught my course, MGT 512 starting Friday December 9 - Tuesday December 13, then a down day to prepare to teach the late Dr. Gene Schultz's Incident Response Management (MGT 535). Kathy and I did have one notable meal at the Russian House, we shared the Elk Sausage as a starter, I had the Elk Steak and Kathy had the Beef Stroganoff. Food and service were great, but get there early. It turns into a hot, noisy bar scene. Friday the 16th we took the train back to Richmond. The train was on time and a very relaxing way to travel.

My Verizon MiFi was so slow in Richmond, it was almost unusable. My PC had a program to let me update coverage. I went to Verizon's website to see if I could get a program for my Mac that does the same thing. Not only could I not find it, the MiFi, apparently is a thing of the past. When I get back to Kauai, I will need to put some time into figuring out what to do.

Today, I have started cooking for Christmas. I started with sweet potatoes and couple spoons of olive oil for a buttery feel, I sweetened them with apple cider and dried sweetened cranberries, added just a hint of cinnamon. Simple, healthy and delicious. I am going to tackle the mashed potatoes later today, while the sweet potatoes are healthy, these will be artery cloggers, actually not that bad, I found fat free buttermilk.


[Saturday, November 26, 2011] Headed to San Antonio

This would have been a gorgeous day to spend in Richmond, but we are traveling. James Limo was on time and the drive to the airport was uneventful. We are scheduled on Continental 4434, it is delayed due to high winds out of Houston. That has my full attention, since we are headed to Houston. Continental rebooked us on a later flight and so we lost our first class seats. Kathy inquired about exit rows and was told that would be an additional charge. I quietly asked if that applies to United 1k status; when she checked, she found it did not. You can see the merger is continuing, in fact a plane, painted with United Express livery, just pulled up to a Continental gate and they are headed for Newark, a Continental destination.


[Thursday, November 24, 2011] Thanksgiving at Ruth's Chris

The family wanted to have Thanksgiving at a restaurant. Fine with me, I have been making "leftovers" for days. It is an old plantation home, I think it is 200 years old. They gave us a room to ourselves which was great with two boisterous kids. I chose the traditional turkey offering, so did Kathy. The green beans were too "raw" for me, dressing too salty, and sweet potato too sweet, but the turkey was done well. Hunter ordered an ahi stack and Mohammed got the lamb chops. Time with family is always precious, something you realize more and more as you grow older and I had a good conversation with Ben and Jill.


[Monday, November 21, 2011] Working from Richmond VA

I noticed they have rebranded the Red Carpet club as the United Club in SFO. We got to the airport early because I am paranoid about getting through security. The only open seats were at the bar, normally I sit in the business laptop area. There was a really obnoxious traveler on his way to Singapore that must have spent a bit of time in bars of late and he focused on Kathy; she handled him just fine. As the bartender was getting off shift, he came over to thank her for diffusing the moment. United 501 was on time and had great service. We arrived in Chicago (ORD) a little early which was great because we arrived at C gates and needed to pick up our connection at F gates. Kathy was not hungry and there was a McDonald's near our gate so I tried the new third pounder Angus burger. Not bad, and if they could just get the whole grain bun thing going, I think they could get a bit of market share back. United 5867 was also on time and we were met on time by James Limo at RIC. Late flight, so we were not in bed till 1 AM. We got up for church. The pastor at Grove Baptist was all fired up about a Richmond wide event at U Turn Performance Academy at 6:00 PM on Sunday, but all I was fired up about was a nap. It is very rare for me to successfully nap during the day, but I surely did. It was a gorgeous day and Kathy wanted to go to Costco. They have some oil she uses on her face called Bio Oil. I pulled the cover off the Mustang convertible, we put the top down and off we went to Costco. We got Bio Oil, plus a scraper and snow shovel. The limo driver had told us that she thought this was going to be a snowy winter, so I figured an extra snow shovel could not hurt.

Hunter had a friend over to work out when we got back from Costco. His name is Mohammed and he is a US Marine whose specialty is translation. He is also a native born Iraqi. He was a joy to speak with and after their workout they were kind enough to join us for baked Scallops in Cornmeal Sauce and twice baked Yukon Gold Potatoes.

Baked Scallops in Cornmeal Sauce

I know, I know you are really doubting me on this one. Put a bag of frozen scallops in a glass baking pan, mix two eggs, a quarter cup of yellow non-rising cornmeal and spice generously with some black pepper and Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Salt Free Seasoning. Cook at 350 degrees. The secret to making this work is to stir just when the eggs are congealing. The frozen scallops add a lot of scallop flavored water to the dish so it comes out as a thick sauce. I cook the scallops a bit more than I normally do when I cook them in a skillet, at 350, they do not tend to get rubbery.

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Slept till 9:00 AM today. After the travel load we have had, it felt really good to get some rest. I have been trying to wrap my brain around my upcoming 2:00pm call. The NOC guys are really smart and we want to refresh Denver, but the way we are going about the project is almost comical. I am going to put in some effort and I hope I can be helpful.

[Friday, November 18, 2011] Closing out in San Francisco

The Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf is a disaster as a conference hotel. I like it well enough to stay in as a hotel. Today, they closed the bathroom for painting while we were running four classrooms. They did not turn our rooms over to us as it says in the contract. The Internet is unusable. The little coffee bar is really slow. That they don't care is the worst part; the instructors are here for six days and they have exactly six menu choices for lunch. It has been a blur, but here are my notes on three places we visited during our stay:
  • Tarantino's on Sunday night. Quiet, great view of the water. There was a fishing boat that was in its slip, they were cleaning up and one of the watermen had a Maine Coon cat that stayed on his shoulders even when he was climbing ladders. The cat had a life jacket. People would stop on the sidewalk and watch and take pictures. Kathy had the Roasted Petrale, I had the Seafood Fettuccine. It was good, but not extraordinary, but with the atmosphere, a truly lovely experience.
  • Hot Spud, it was raining and they are the closest place to the hotel. You get a baked potato filled with steak and vegetables, or in Kathy's case, just vegetables.
  • Scoma's WOW! What a well run restaurant. We went on Wednesday night and though we went early, almost every table was filled. Kathy had the fresh Halibut, I had the Shellfish Saute which is not to be missed. Even though they were croweded, the service was excellent. If you are in the area, I would strongly suggest you get a reservation and experience Scoma's.


[Sunday, November 13, 2011] Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

We have a down day and we need it in the worst way. Kathy and I both have developed respiratory infections. I carry Grapefruit Seed Extract and poured a glass for both of us yesterday. Learned something surprising about the hotel, they could rename it to the "V" for voyeur. Our room faces the pool as do many others. Last night when we got in, a couple in the room directly opposite of us were dancing and then her shirt came off. I would love to tell you we dropped the lights and watched, but no, we dropped the shades, this is a family friendly story when possible. When we woke up today, another couple was being active; I think this will be shades down most of the time, at least right around go to sleep and first get up time.

Somebody was outside our room by the pool with a gas powered trimmer, it kept cutting off. Since we dropped the shades, we speculated about what was happening by the sound alone. Kathy came up with the fantasy notion they were mowing the pool and kept hitting sharks (it was too cold in the Pacific so some enterprising sharks had made their way to the Sharaton's heated pool). Don't judge us, when you get tired, you get punchy. And there is the economic lesson - one of the sharks he hit with his mower was on the fin. Not only did it jam up the mower, but there is the lost opportunity. You know you can get at least $50.00 for a shark fin in San Francisco's Chinatown for soup.

I don't normally drink coffee anymore. The strongest caffeine I do is green tea. But the Starbucks Bold Africa Kitamu looked so good and we had 2% milk in the fridge, what is not to like. I am starting to feel a major writing project coming on. Need to think this through carefully because it would be fiction and that means it would be hard to sell. But I am patient. When I go to sleep, scenes from the project propel my dreams. I think the best thing to do is develop my thesis and try to write a couple non-fiction articles that would give me something to point publishers to.

[Saturday, November 12, 2011] San Francisco

James limo was on time to pick us up. We got to the airport early; good thing. It was a slow day at RIC and TSA was picking almost everyone for "random" screening. They picked Kathy, asked if she could remove her sweater; that would be the garment next to her skin. Then the pat down. Then the lady TSA agent went through every single thing in her bag. I had already cleared security so I went to the area where you reconstitute yourself after security to watch. It was a new low for TSA and they are pretty low in my book. The lady literally took every tampon out of a zip lock bag Kathy had them in and held them up. There is NO excuse for that, I consider that abusive. Every five minutes (this screening took at least 20 minutes, probably 25), a "gentleman" TSA agent would come over and look over the female TSA agent's shoulder. They would say something and he would walk away. So much for same sex screening. Finally, when they were done, the female TSA went to the male TSA guy and they started talking and laughing. I am NOT saying they were talking about us, but anyone with the emotional intelligence of an eighth grader would know that was inappropriate. We went to our gate and then two different times different TSA agents would walk by, pointedly stare at us and walk on. We were sitting by ourselves near a power outlet so it really was us. Oh well. United 5830 was on time and got us to Dulles (IAD). Went to lunch at the Club Level Grill, the best eats on the United side of the Richmond Airport. I had the French Dip, a roast beef sandwich with dipping sauce au jus and Kathy had the Richmond Spud, a lovely grilled potato, bacon, cheese, who knows what else combo. Yum.

We already knew United 560 was going to be late, so we pulled into the Red Carpet Lounge and made some non-caffeinated hot tea. We went to our gate, because the sign said it would depart at 3:40 PM and it had not even arrived yet. It arrived, they cleaned it, there was some sort of mechanical problem with the "EQ???". It got fixed, we boarded, we flew to San Francisco. The pilots put it into overdrive and we arrived only 20 minutes late. Service on 560 was five star, these folks were on it. Taxi to the work site went well, no major traffic jams. The San Francisco Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf is a nice property in a fantastic location. The food on the flight was nice, a "Tuscan" stuffed chicken, but it really was good, I ate the whole thing. The flight is 5 hour, 30 minutes, the baggage and cab consume another 50 minutes, so I was hungry when we got to the Sheraton. I asked Kathy if she wanted to sleep or get some food and she came with me. Cafe Pescatore is across the street from the hotel. I liked almost everything about the place, but my entree. The atmosphere is lively, most of the servers are incredibly attentive, the architecture is well done and we showed up with no reservation on a Saturday night at 7:30 PM and they seemed genuinely glad to seat us. Kathy had the Seafood Antipasto, a gorgeous dish - I was jealous, and I had the Branzino, which was ho hum. We did share a bottle of True Grit Petit Syrah 2007, that gets five yums!!!! I will probably return, but one big minus, they did not refill our water glasses even once, I often write a restaurant off for that, but I would like to try the Seafood Antipasto so I think I will forgive. Bottom line, we are in position for the job. More soon.