Hacking into a bank by lunchtime: 24 Hours with Decoded’s Chris Monk

What happens when you try and take a lock-picking kit through airport security? Decoded's head of region Chris Monk knows all about it. In this 24 Hours With, he brings the cameras along to document the trials and tribulations of life in the digital lane.


Early start today as Decoded is running a Cyber Security Bootcamp in Sydney, so I need to be in an Uber by 07:15am with a peli-case of laptops, a load of lock-picking equipment and a TV.

Fortunately I’m not trying to take the lock-picking kit through an airport this time, as it has raised eyebrows and prompted questions from customs folk in the past and has needed my best charm to explain the complex relationship between lock-picking and cyber security.

Attend any hacking conference and at least a quarter of the expo space is dedicated to the art and science of opening physical rather than digital locks!

The early hour is an opportunity to have an informal catch up with our New York team who are just finishing their working day. I learn more about the bespoke digital enlightenment program they are delivering for IBM graduate employees across the US.


Arrive at the QT Hotel and meet with my Decoded team colleagues. We cause a lot of amusement by having brought our own TV with us, and we cop some strange looks as we lug the kit through the restaurant past guests having their breakfast.

We get to our venue and set up, check the breakfast arrangements and prepare to welcome our 13 attendees who are looking forward to a morning discovering the dark arts of hacking and cyber security.

Co-presenter Djordje Djordjevic (a genetic statistician by day, hacker by night) and I kick off the session with a background of hacking and cyber attacks, including some recent history. I love telling the human stories behind technology and seeing people engage with them and get excited about the same things I’m passionate about.

From Ralph Langer discovering the murky world of Stuxnet through to the accidental release of the Anna Kournikova virus in 2001 (that was the one that made you think you were getting a picture of Miss Kournikova but actually it just forwarded itself to your entire address book) , it’s stories like these that make technology fun.


After the brief intro, we get everybody hands-on, transforming them into clients of our fictitious bank, Komodo. They must penetrate the bank’s security systems to steal money from each other. The competition ramps up after we discover an SQL injection vulnerability in the system.

SQL Injection is a common vulnerability in web applications that allows us to manipulate databases directly; it’s played a role in many high-profile security incidents including the Sony Pictures breach in 2014.

The glitch in our system allows our attendees to see a list of all usernames and it’s then down to the attendees to perform open-source research to guess each other’s passwords. We run a live leaderboard of account balances to show who in the room is cracking cyber-theft. No pressure then.

After hacking the bank it’s time to talk about encryption and security culture. A full on morning.


Session finished and it’s time for a delicious healthy lunch served up by the QT and a chat with clients about future opportunities: a couple of absolute gems could come out of today’s session, but unfortunately I’m not allowed to talk about them yet.


Back in an Uber to Chatswood which is home at the moment to be greeted by my furry best friend, Bert. Bert made the trip over from the UK when I came to set up the Australian office at the start of 2016 and has settled the easiest out of all of us here in Oz!


Into triathlon kit to get through today’s session on the turbo trainer as part of my long build towards Ironman New Zealand in 2018.


It’s time to jump back on Slack and catch up with the team and clear my emails today. The move to Slack has made the email war much more winnable as all internal communication now happens there leaving my inbox free for talking to clients.

I look after the whole APAC region from Sydney, which means as a team we struggle to co-locate very often, so we embrace technology as much as possible to allow us to work effectively. We’re constantly connected and talking through Slack, always jumping on Google Hangouts and (of course), picking up the phone to each other.

Whenever we’re in the same place though the team does make sure we find time to meet face-to-face to discuss work. We also find time to socialise together. I think the key to working effectively and remotely is to make sure you spend some quality face-to-face time together whenever you are able to do so.


After catching up with the team and making sure everybody is happy and doesn’t need anything else from me, I can get head down into some content creation. My role is cross-functional, so as well as leading the team, delivering content and working with clients, I spend a lot of time developing new content for our training courses. This time I’m working on a cyber security demo I need to deliver in Cambodia at the end of July… I’m looking forward to my first time there and because the conference is in Siem Reap I get to swing by Angkor Wat at the same time.


Even though we embrace technology to communicate internally, most of our client contact time still happens face-to-face. I’ve been asked to present at a conference in Melbourne tomorrow so it’s time to get packed up, get to the airport and get back on a plane. I seem to spend most of my life either in airports or on planes… but needs must!

I decide against the Uber as I don’t fancy battling through rush hour traffic down to Mascot, so I trundle my carry-on up to Chatswood station and fire up a hotspot on the train to continue work.


It’s at this time in the evening that my UK head office wake up, so my Slack starts going wild as they respond to everything we’ve asked them all day… not too bad today as I’m sat in an airport but it can occasionally cause a small amount of marital stress at home…


Landed in Melbourne, time to grab a cab, head off to the hotel to grab some food and an early night to be ready for the conference the next day.

Chris Monk is head of region at Decoded.


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