CactusCon - Chaos in the Machine: Why Security Needs a Style Guide

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Speaker: Bishop Fox

There is a knowledge gap between security insiders and the general public. Can you hack an RSS feed? Can you pop a shell on a Google? Are the files inside the computer?

Part of the confusion stems from inconsistent terminology. All industries have niche vocabulary, but few are as consistently in the spotlight or as intimately in our lives as information security. No governing body regulates which terms to use or how to write them formally, so it falls on individual researchers to give it their best shot.

Even within an 80-person company, we’ve disputed how to write “Man-in-the-Middle,” how to pronounce “SQL,” and when to use “plaintext” vs. “cleartext.” To cut down on these looping discussions and spend more time on the fun stuff, we’ve compiled a cybersecurity style guide that includes ~1,500 terms written as they should appear in our formal reports.

The guide will be made public on our site this fall for anyone to download and use. I hope that this guide starts bridging that gap between the writers who discover zero-days and the everyday people affected by them.

Creating the guide has combined my training as a linguist and editor with my love of lists and dictionaries in a satisfying way. I’ve mined outdated guides for lost gems and found explanations for illogical conventions like default port numbers and the spelling of the Referer heading. It’s thrilling to learn that the arbitrary choices of programmers have shaped and continue to shape the way users experience the modern world, and it’s been thrilling to get to know them better through making this guide.

Come learn why technical editing is good for business, how The Onion inspired the expansion of the word list, and how this new tool can start helping you today. Technical Editor Brianne Hughes speaks at CactusCon - Chaos in the Machine: Why Security Needs a Style Guide.



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