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S4: Creating the Future of ICS

SynSaber Story
Ron Fabela, SynSaber CTO & Co-founder
Ron Fabela
CTO, SynSaber

There was a feeling of pent-up excitement as S4x22 started. The ICS security community hasn’t come together for over two years due to the pandemic, and it was time once again to learn, share, and support one another in lovely Miami.

Here are some S4 highlights from SynSaber, mixed in with a little nostalgia and throwback pics from a younger, beardless Ron.

S4 Togetherness, at last

The early days of S4 brought together ~50 people from around the globe to share ideas and conversations. This year we had nearly 800 attendees from 30 countries, and it was amazing to see this newer, larger community come together!

It was slightly overwhelming at first, but providing introductions of old friends to new ones and making real connections still remain the best part of S4 events. 💜

It’s rare that you have a gathering at a conference that combines the best in content and presentations with a community that genuinely cares for one another. It was a reunion of sorts, and everyone was just so full of joy to see each other in person and not on the other end of a Zoom session.

S4 Highlight: BEER-ISAC Community Award

BEER-ISAC: It’s not really (just) about the beer. The BEER-ISAC Community Award was presented to Sarah Freeman for her contributions and creation of “Consequence-Driven, Cyber-Informed Engineering (CCE).”

If you haven’t already, check out https://inl.gov/cce/ and buy the book. It’s an excellent method for critical infrastructure security.

Industroyer2, INCONTROLLER, and Bears – Oh My!

S4 continues the tradition of having major ICS security events break the week before the conference, so much so that Dale leaves speaking spots open for late-breaking content just in case. (Maybe Dale is the author of INCONTROLLER, mmmmm? Just sayin’)

There was definitely a buzz at the conference due to news of these events dropping the week prior. Regarding INCONTROLLER, there are still questions remaining on how it was discovered and the general “when can the community get the samples?” but no question on the valuable technical content presented by Mandiant.

S4 Highlight: Technical Analysis right from the source

It was great to see the ESET team present technical details on Industroyer2, and the Mandiant team on INCONTROLLER. After my session, I had the pleasure of handing off the main stage to Nathan and Keith from Mandiant, and I quickly ran around the front to catch their expert technical analysis that finished out Day 1 of the conference.

The S4 Community Evolution

Dale and Liz have been putting on S4 conferences since 2007. The community was still very niche back then, but highly passionate about protecting critical infrastructure. Since the early days, there has been extraordinary growth both for the community and us personally.

I have been attending S4 conferences for so long that I can’t quite remember if my first was S4x12 or S4x13, and many attendees have made the trek since S4x07. It has been wonderful to see what was once hosted in small conference rooms at the Kovens become the event that we have today.

S4 Highlight: From keg runner to the main stage

S4 Beer Bash S4x14
How it started (S4x14)

It’s awesome to see the evolution and growth, as former attendees become main stage speakers, main stage speakers become mentors, and mentors become company owners. For me personally, when I started attending I was awe-inspired by technical giants.

I enjoyed brewing and serving the first Craft Beer Bash with Stephen and Paul, friends from Chattanooga who made the 12-hour drive with me.

Then I had the opportunity to do a stage 2 talk at S4x16 with then co-worker and always friend Charles Perine.

This year? A main stage talk (stay tuned for the recorded session), and SynSaber had the pleasure of sponsoring the Craft Beer Bash and the new Women in ICS Security gathering.

S4 Beer Bash S4x22
How it’s going (still w/the green cups!)
Ron S4x22 session
Slaying ICS Mythical Creatures

My personal journey is just one of many within the ICS security community. Many have started by metaphorically (or literally, in my case) hauling kegs, sharing hotel rooms, and paying our own way, and have now become owners/mentors/friends of the community, trying to empower and lift up those around us.

We’ve all come a long way; let’s guide those coming into ICS security and help create the future! Thank you, Dale, Liz, and all who contributed to a truly memorable S4x22 event.

See you all next year! (Save the date for S4x23 – February 13-16, 2023)

~Ron 💜🚀