Know your community – El kentaro

If you ever been in a security conference, there are always those people who seems to be connected with everyone. Today we have the opportunity to interview one of them! I’m proud to introduce El Kentaro!
Kentaro is a permanent resident at CODE BLUE, AVTokyo and security community events in Japan. El is a skillful translator/interpreter that can speak the languages of infosec, English, and Japanese. If you want to get involved in the security community in Japan – he’s the person for you to reach out to.



Questions
Q: How many years have you been involved in the security field, what was your motivation to get into it the first place?
A: I have always had an interest in security related research from starting way back in college. Back then you could actually type: relay in a telnet login prompt to be forwarded to another system,yea its been that long ago. By a sequence of bizarre lucky incidents, I ended up working in the information technology industry more as a system engineer than anything security related. About 11 years ago I was contacted by a friend who was looking for people to help him with launching BlackHat Japan. I joined the team as a translating volunteer. This was my first exposure to the information security industry, about 6 years ago after I left my position at a digital ad agency, I decided to go full-time into the security industry and the rest is history.
Q: What is your field of expertise?
A: None, and I pride myself on it. I am merely a conduit for excellent people to showcase or discuss their incredible research. Not only as a translator/interpreter but as a general consultant to non-security clients, I focus on explaining what the “expert” is trying to communicate as easy as possible. I think of myself as water, fluid enough to get the flavors of a coffee to the taste buds of somebody enjoying a coffee. An expert (the coffee grind) has all this incredible information (flavors, etc) but without water its just in a powder form and is hard for people to understand (enjoy the coffee) , that is where I come in, I just help the expert(s) to communicate or facilitate their process. I think of myself of a language-hacker in that sense, I am very picky and careful on how I communicate with others and what words to use.
Q: You are one of the Hacker Japan contributor, supporter of CODE BLUE and AVTOKYO. Could you please tell us about the Japanese security community? how big was it when you joined them?
A: The size of the core of the security community has been pretty similar over the years since I got involved. Unfortunately I do not actively engage in going to meetings/conferences/meetups due to my scheduling and other obligations. What has changed significantly over the years is the consumer-side of information security. Consumer-side refers to the client side of consuming security information, more and more people and organizations are now engaged in driving the security industry. I do meet new security researchers and professionals but the rate of growth compared to the demand-side is way smaller.
Q: How big is the Japanese security community at the moment?
A: Not big enough.
Q: How has the security community changed in Japan in the past 5 years?
A: Thanks to CODE BLUE, AVTokyo and SECCON and other events and meet ups there are more and more people joining the field. But we are still a long way from actual researchers making a significant impact on a global scale.
Q: Are there special programs for students that want to get into the security research field?
A: I couldn’t tell you , I am a theater and film major who dropped out of college. Education was never my strength.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved in the security community (both the international and local community)?
A: I was lucky enough to be thrown into the community rather than a conscious decision to join. But I do feel my obligation is to fill the gap between the international community and the local community by ways unique to myself.
Q: In your opinion, does the security community in Japan is open to the international community?
A: Depends on the definition of “open to” I think. For vendors coming into the market , Japan can be an extremely hard market to crack. This is not an security-industry unique trend, it always has been like this even in the days of mainframes of the 80s. The language difference is a large aspect of the barrier to entry, but it also is a barrier for Japanese security researchers to go outside of Japan. But if you define “open to” as in a more communal sense where individuals could come over to enjoy the community, I would say the community is very open. Ask anybody (non-Japanese) who has ever joined AVTokyo or any of the other get-together in Japan and they will confirm what I believe is the openness of the community.
Q: What is you favorite security conference?
A: DEFCON and AVTokyo, for me both conferences are more like friends getting together once a year. I truly enjoy these reunions.I would like to attend more smaller regional conferences just haven’t got around to it.
Q: What kind lectures you like to attend? listen to?
A: I am more interested in lectures/topics dealing with threat intelligence in general. It helps me in my daily life and a facilitator to convey the technical aspects of our industry with the demand-side paying for our services/products.
Q: What do you love most in conferences? (conference events – CTF / hacking village / Hack the badge, drinking parties etc)
A: Meeting people. All the other stuff are just means to an end I think, at the end a conference should be about humans.
Q: What is the most exotic place you attended a security conference at?
A: None… maybe my room at the Bally’s in Vegas during DEFCON. RoomCons are always fun cause you actually get to talk to people. As strange as it may sound I do enjoy LineCons (waiting in line to register for an event) too, I have met some interesting people while waiting in line.
Q: In which country have you been surprised by the size / quality of the security community?
A: Can’t tell you, countries,nationalities,regions, community sizes are things I don’t care about.
Q: What you don’t like in today’s international security community?
A: I think the focus on US centric topics/research is detrimental to the global community. I would like to see more research with a domestic/regional flavor. What does a Chinese researcher think of western intelligence gathering activities? What does a German researcher find interesting that only would affect Germany, how would a Japanese researcher solve a problem with a Japanese product etc etc.
Q: You are one on the team members of AKASAKATONIGHT (a podcast show) Could you please tell us about the show?
A: Its Japanese podcast that started out as a joke. A couple us were drinking and we were complaining about how radio had become so commercialized and sterile so we started our show. Its been going for 5 years now , currently on hiatus due to my scheduling conflicts but it will be up again sometime in the near future. Our mantra is “A radio show for degenerate middle aged people who never learned to grow up and stop partying.”
Q: What is the content of the shows?
A: Whatever we feel like discussing, but its a variety-show is we have guests sometimes we do a very political show or just stupid sex stories. Whatever we feel the listeners would be interested in.
Q: What are the projects you are promoting today?
A: Nothing special, check me out on instagram where most of my builds etc end up. Or hit me up on twitter/FB whichever. (if you do hit me up on FB , send a message with it. I hate people just asking to “friend” somebody without having the courtesy to send a message saying who they are or where they found me. If you send a friend request to me and don’t send a message with it, it usually goes to the abyss of “requests not worth considering”)
Q: What’s the single piece of advice you would give to someone seeking out a career in the security field?
A: Take a writing class, attend a communications skills class. Cause you can be the best researcher with the most incredible find but if you can’t express yourself then that find is not going to get any exposure or help others. Also READ MORE! , don’t just read books with animal covers but read general stuff, pulp fiction, science fiction, hard-boiled novels,love stories,smut novels, non-fiction, history , biographies. Remember,reading is privilege, you are given the tool to experience life through somebody else’s eyes. As a researcher if you don’t know what people outside your bubble are struggling with, how do you plan to come up with a solution? How can you call yourself a security researcher if you have no idea what is happening in the world and what changes are happening? So yea, READ MORE! If you are not beating all your friends and family members in Trivial Pursuit you are not doing it right.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: Making stuff. I used to be a degenerate gambler, I was the guy who had to make everything a bet to feel alive. But about 4 years ago I rekindled my love affair with my tools and I have never been happier. I like the problem solving process of tackling a problem that seems ridiculously insignificant to others but is a major pain in my life. So I enjoy coming up with solutions that just work for my problems and might not be applicable to others. I build stuff in digital(i.e.:code chunks, smalls scripts, rasp-pi, arduino etc) , I sew, I weave and I just started leather craft. Like I said these are all means to solve my problem. I also enjoy consuming information, wether its through reading, watching a movie, listening to a podcast, I am an information addict.
Q: Who is your favorite fictional hacker/security professional?
A: Harry Caul. “The Conversation” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071360/
Q: Which is better VIM or Emacs?
A: VIM , it always has been.
Q: Where can people find you?
A: I’m @elKentaro everywhere.
Q: What’s with the El? is that your real name?
A: No. It started as a joke, there was a Japanese wrestler named El Samurai. I once commented on a friend’s blog using the handle El Kentaro and it stuck. The EL is Spanish for “The” cause friends always told me they had people ask me if they knew “Kentaro” , so I became “The Kentaro.” Also EL is phonetic spelling for the letter “L” in Japanese, referring to my physical size compared others in Japan.
It was a pleasure, El, to talk to you
You’re welcome.