Ljubljana 2018 (BSides Ljubljana)

Posted on Sat 24 March 2018 in journeys

Going to Ljubljana for BSides Ljubljana 2017 was comparatively without troubles, not counting my scheduling difficulties resulting in several annoying waiting times.

Day 1

I took the train from Graz and read a book I had previously purchased but never read, as I usually do when trying to pass time. When the scheduled arrival time came I was a bit nervous as I feared I might have missed my stop. Several minutes after the scheduled time I still didn’t hear an announcement saying the next stop would be Ljubljana. Nervousness turned into slight annoyance. By now I just assumed I had either missed the stop - which was bad - or the train was delayed - which was slightly less bad. I didn’t need to catch a connection. It just meant the people responsible for the appartment would have to wait even longer for me though.

I left the train and wondered why the train station would be so small. In retrospect I only saw the underground and the back exit on that day. The actual train station is larger, though not especially large. It’s also a short walk away from most of the tracks, which was part of the reason for my confusion.

Since - obviously - leaving the train station through the wrong exit does not lead one directly to waiting taxis, I had no luck there. So I asked Google Maps to find me an ATM and plot a route to my accomodation. The suggestion included a bus ride with pricing information for the bus. Upon entering I saw people paying with a contactless card. No one paid in cash as it is common in Graz. I asked the bus driver but he waved me away, so I took a seat, next to a helpful information panel. Said panel happened to spell out the usage instructions for the contactless payment but not where to get such a card.

Once I arrived at the loft - Tobacna Red - it really was as nice as the reviews and images had suggested. I don’t remember asking my contact for information about the Urbana bus cards which was an oversight. I ventured out to find something to eat and asked in a kiosk for the tickets because I had read earlier on the Internet that you could “get them basically everywhere”. So, yeah, newsflash. Don’t believe everything on the Internet, regardless of how nicely made the site is. Anyway, the friendly lady at the kiosk couldn’t help me and I had happened to find a resident whose English wasn’t up to explaining me where to go either though she clearly understood what I meant.

I had lunch at Meta in Bazilika where the hint from the waiter not to take the “wok risotto” should’ve been a clue not to eat there. Or the fact that despite the nice weather both the garden and the interior were completely empty.

I’m honest, the wok risotto… don’t take that. It’s just not good.

Well, thanks for that, but neither was the risotto with turkey and tomatoes. Now, I’m not a cook, so what do I know… but you might want to try seasoning the turkey next time. Or making the risotto actually creamy. However, the waiter also gave me the hint that the Urbana card was available “in the center”.

After venturing there, I found a tourist information spot which sold the cards. Paid €2 for the card and €5 for an initial charge. Then I walked up the castle hill but by the time I was done taking some pictures and having an initial walk around the castle it was too late to go inside with only 20 minutes remaining.

View of some part of Ljubljana, taken from the castle hill in the afternoon sun

A tower as part of the castle in Ljubljana, Slovenia

So, down into the old parts of the town it was. I fancied a cake and looked around until I found a restaurant with great looking Tiramisu visible from outside. Sadly, the waiter told me he could not sell me the Tiramisu. It was reserved for dinner guests and official dinner hours wouldn’t start until later. However, he pointed me to a café which serves great cakes. I checked out Slaščičarna pri Vodnjaku. The cake made with Nutella and bananas was delicious. The tea was… okay I guess. I have rarely had fruit tea that was that sour though - not sure what was in there. I even ventured back to the restaurant to thank the waiter for his suggestion after checking whether he was currently busy. That earned me another recommendation - Le Petit Cafe which served excellent breakfast, according to him. Now, breakfast isn’t really my time of day, but this opinion slightly changes when it’s served until 1 PM.

After that I was getting tired, so I grabbed a Sub for later and headed home. By foot, since the route planner didn’t suggest any buses. After checking I realized why. Going by foot was 12 minutes. Waiting for the next bus would’ve been 24 minutes. Getting over that annoyance was several days.

Day 2

BSides

Due to sleepiness I only attended the last few seconds of the BSides keynote even though the event was literally in the next building. Also, before I forget, the videos have been archived at archive.org. If you want to watch just one talk, make it “The consequences of bad security and privacy in healthcare” by Jelena Milosevic.

one

The first talk I attended was Security Automation in CI pipeline. I considered most of the lessons from there obvious, but this is after working as a developer and as an admin with a CI pipeline I built due to personal interest. Basically if things can be automated to avoid problems, let’s try to automate them. I don’t think many companies have existing pipelines in place that allow for testing security in a reproducable and automated way. Of particular interest to me was the way this was suggested in the talk.

The (GitLab) pipeline had a test stage, a deploy-to-staging stage, ran the security tests against staging and afterwards deployed to production. I like this idea but am somewhat curious how much delay this seperation adds. I usually try to increase parallelism and would’ve preferred an approach in which the security testing isn’t adding 2 mores stages. My preference for this is because stages are run sequentially while jobs in the same stage can be run in parallel. (Gitlab terminology and CI doc)

two

I listened to the last words from the first talk in track 1 since my talk ended early. The presenter had to defend his work and lecture since no one outside the corporate/government environment actually felt the need to decrypt QUIC and TLS 1.3 traffic. I sat down for Trape – the evolution of phishing attacks.

I don’t think I know quite enough about how phishing attacks and persistence on machine are typically done to properly evaluate the use of Trape. Quite frankly, while the automated profiling of social media and general website accounts seemed handy, they didn’t impress me. Yes, that was certainly convenient but I hardly found exploitation of browser implementation details from a local server all that exciting.

three

The consequences of bad security and privacy in healthcare was my favorite talk this BSides. It wasn’t purely technical nor was it theoretical. Instead, it was a window into how hospital IT security is often run. Opsec as seen in reality. Some of the results where really bleak and quite frankly, horrifying in terms of possible implications for abuse of power, abuse of data or loss of data.

Here’s a quote - which I note from my memories instead of the stream, so it might not be entirely accurate:

So, I asked them, have they upgraded all systems and secured all things properly. And they answered, yes, of course, everything is fine. But then you find a blood bank running on Windows XP.

These are the scenarios that make you shiver as someone with even a faint interest in information security. Mission critical infrastructure running on an OS of which even the successor has already been retired.

lunch

There was pizza. Pizza is the default for BSides events from what I’ve seen so far, except when you’re in the land of pizza in which case there’s a mixed buffet arranged by a catering firm.

four

Someone made a joke up front how the Docker security talk would probably be short. It was. It was extremely short and disappointing. I joined the talk in the hope of learning something valuable that might be substantial to gaining an understanding of the security aspects of a technology I had almost no experience with yet.

There are two sides to this talk: One was great and one was depressing. The depressing part was how the advice for Docker security came down to three bullet points:

  • don’t use --privileged
  • don’t mount the Docker socket inside the container
  • don’t use the docker group and prefer usage of sudo instead

I have furthermore been told that this should’ve been extended by at least:

  • drop the root privileges in the container
  • if possible
  • as soon as possible

Now, the cool part of this was that the speaker demonstrated the ways each of these flaws could be used to gain root on the host. Frankly speaking, that these kind of configurations might be deployed to production are a bit terrifying.

five

The speaker in How (not) to fail as a security professional [Lessons learned] has been working in InfoSec, development and administration for years and shared some advice how to fail. While the talk was indeed very entertaining and certainly helpful, I don’t remember a good lot of it. One should think that not being an asshole and never stopping to learn would be a good starting point for people in any career. Also, writing articles about individual talks several weeks after the talk without any notes isn’t particularly easy…

six

The keynote speaker, Finux threw up an impromptu version of the third part of his privacy focussed lecture. I’ll be frank, I didn’t like part 1 a lot in 2016. However, I was positively surprised by the content and the blend of disciplines in this one. The impact of architecture on the concept of privacy was a fascinating topic I’d probably never have considered getting informed about.

CSides, so to say

After listening with a sharp mind for the whole day I wanted some relaxation and went to one of the fancier restaurants. I wasn’t exactly sure what to go for, but ended up in Vander restaurant, eating boar and fancy dessert. The city is lovely in the evening - even when it was pitch dark, people were still out and about, huddling around heating lamps and enjoying their drinks near the river. The atmosphere was amazing and I struggle to imagine how nice it has to be when it’s not too cold for my taste. Ljubljana’s cafés also happened to have fruit tea in stock which was a huge step up from my Rome visit. ;)

Shot across the river, people sitting around heating lamps in front of a brightly lit bar, shot taken during the dark of the night

Day 3

I checked out at 11:00 and sat around until 16:00 when my train left back for Graz. The weather wasn’t suited for grand adventures given that there was constant slight rain that made the perceived temperature drop. I’m already constantly cold, so no need to stay outside longer than necessary in suboptimal conditions. Still, I was inclined to check out the café and headed there. I arrived and it was packed. Even the tables on the outside below big umbrellas with heating lamps were full.

Resorting to the Café Lolita where I had seen the waiter juggling the evening before, I had the most delicious Black Forest cake I’ve ever tasted. I orded that with “hot chocolate” and was pleasantly surprised when I actually got hot chocolate instead of the regular cocoa. As an aside, I order hot chocolate since I’m used to getting cocoa and the term seems to be more common in the foreign countries I’ve been to yet than just cocoa.

A rectangular dish with a small piece of Black Forest cake. Behind the dish a cup with liquid brown chocolate

Since I sat there for several hours, I also had non-alcoholic punch which was very tasty. I liked the berries and mandarin oranges a lot. I wholeheartedly recommend this place.

Of course, no place is perfect.

I realize I’m the stupid tourist her[e] but wouldn’t you want to label your restrooms in your prime location cafe in a way that is somewhat clear to foreigners? ~Alexander Skiba (@ghostlyrics), March 11, 2018

A tall glass filled with red punch. It has fruits swimming in the punch

After some more sitting around and waiting I finally walked to the train station, all the while looking for some kind of food place along the way. None of them tickled my fancy, so I boarded hungrily and made for the dining car after a while. Food there was rather plain, but I liked the open car. The low chair backs and plush seats combined with large panorama windows reminded me of the Murder in the Orient Express movie that had impressed me last year.

A wide open dining car with cozy benches the low backs of which offer a great view of the scenery through panorama windows

As an aside, I did check out the train station hall and noticed something that would’ve helped me a lot on my first day: Of course, the tourist information point inside the train station would have been the other viable option for purchasing an Urbana card. Had one realized that there was a main building. Had one bothered to check inside.