ever had a dream that came true exactly the way you saw it? I had a dream and it came true. the story began on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 03:03 AM when I sent a mail to Maryellen O’Connell who is a senior recruiter at Macrovision. “23″ is my lucky number as well as “#3″ and it was a lucky shoot. I shot in the dark. there was just me, my den and a job offer posted on OpenRCE board.
Macrovision was looking for motivated, experienced, and intellectually curious engineers to develop-n-implement security code for Blu-ray discs in their San Francisco office. at that time I was nobody. I had no education, never wrote a resume before, never ever tried to find a job in US, my English was just terrible (especially the spoken one) and I had no real experience at all, but I was a very successful writer, published a dozen hacker books, some of them were translated to English and became quite popular. well, we all began as something else…
the first resume in my life were written by Maryellen. yeah, I’m serious. I just sent her a letter to introduce myself and she had done the rest of paperwork. she was the first HRM I met, but she is the best, she is very professional. only because of her I found myself in Macrovision, or to be more specific – former Cryptograph Research Team, acquired by Macrovision, but at that moment I had no idea who I was going to work for.
there was a phone interview with manager of the group and I was not good on phone. I got a challenge and failed it. the H-1 visa’s applications had been closed that year, so Maryellen had no idea what we could do. she did not say allez-vous en, none the less.
time was getting on and on, I was keeping my head high, trying to be strong, telling myself: “you can not give up your dreams” and Maryellen was the only one who could make it happen and it’s actually happened.
Friday, July 25, 2008 12:55 AM. Maryellen wrote me: “working on bringing you here in the next couple of weeks…..“. the fire in my eyes was slowly fading out until I’d realized that I had no chance to be there. I’m not a welcome person to US. life never turns out the way you want it.
Sunday, May 31, 2009 8:48 PM: Finally, I’ve got my visa. it took more than a year!!! I was afraid that Maryellen forgot me, because… well, who would wait for an employee more that a year?!
could you believe that they did remember me and still were interested?! wow! but at this moment I wasn’t nobody. I became a well-recognized person, a part of McAfee team (former Endeavor Security) and got two my own projects there. my projects, my co-workers, my boss (now – my supervisor) who is my best friend. I was just keeping myself hooked up to that line, and it worked as it’s working now. It takes me to another dimension of relieving the reality, like I’ve been up on ecstasy, my module, my shell-code detector, had been integrated into a commercial product and I was so excited about. I had no intention to leave McAfee and I have no intention to do it now, but I wanted to be the front line of defense against pirates of Blu-ray content, research and implement novel and foremost tamper resistance techniques or, simple, anti-dbg tricks. the only motive I had is to make something out of my life. I wanted to be on the edge and the former Cryptograph Research Group was the excellent opportunity.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 2:40 PM (UTC+4), DOMODEDOVO, Moscow, Russia. Flight Number 159. Seat 12A. American Airlines. Departure. Boeing-767. nice 2 rows seats plain my first transatlantic flight. I was in Malaysia (Boeing 747, KLM), I was in Israel (Boeing 737, Transaero), I was in South Africa (Boeing 747, KLM), I was in Korea (Boeing 777, Koran Airlines), I was… hell I remember… but it was my first transatlantic flight (cam on the board is allowed. will upload my shoots soon). well, basically it’s just nothing. annoying noise, dirty clouds, ugly crew members (American stewardesses are the worst nightmare I’d ever had in my life, even Aeroflot crew members much better and friendly).
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:20 PM (UTC-8), San Francisco, CA. Wow! I’m in SFO, riding to Galleria Park Hotel (very nice hotel, btw, but it’s nothing compared to Asian hotels, well, even South Africa hotels have much better erumpent and better service, and of course, the better view of windows, well, never mind, it’s my dream after all, I was not looking for luxury, I came not as a tourist).
the next morning. I was walking SFO streets dispatching my route to Macrovision office which is only two bocks away. ok, this is it. ground zero. 575 Market Street. high building with two doors: McDonald and the closed one. what’s the hell?! called to Naomi (the gal that runs the office) and asked her to bring me up. in a few seconds I met her. she is a) while, b) skinny; c) beautiful. I thought she is black. I don’t know why. I love black girls! fat chance to meet a black girl in the states. there is no one left. they’re not black. if you want to meet a real one – come to Zimbabwe. black girls there are just awesome!!! well, never mind. I came to US not for girls. anyway, Naomi is not my girl, she is the one who brought me up to the office. we passed a bridge over A-River, decorated with stones – what’s a beautiful place! I liked it from the first sight. I like stones, Korean people do unbelievable things with stones. I just wonder, who designed #575 building? it’s very different from the regular ones, composed of metal and glass. Cryptograph Research building is awesome. good place to work!!!
a few minutes later. I met the team. some people I knew, but most of them – not. what could I say? I found the smartest team I’d even seen in my life. there was Jeremy (you can met him at OpenRCE and Hex-Rays). this guy is a genius. and there was Jonny. he has more patents than I could even imagine. and there was Neil. a black guy. not wonder that we got on like a house on fire and quickly chummed up. I like black guys especially after being in South Africa. they’re open-mind and friendly. so, I was very happy to be among these people.
the next day. I got a challenge. an obfuscated crack-me. it was simple (no anti-dbg tricks, simple math algo, FPU registers were used by engine, but they were not obfuscated at all, so basically there was no obfuscation, bur even if it were, lack of resistance against black-box analyze allowed to hack the crack-me in a second), but… I get used to work in my den, _not_ in foreign environment. I was not nervous, the code was clear for me, but… I could not concentrate. probably because of getting so much exciting feelings in short time. so, I failed the task. well, not really. my motto is: never give up. giving up is easy, I did not want to ruin my dream, and had to intention to throw away my life. to give up without a fight – it’s not my way, so I just cheated. yeah. I always cheat if want to take control, but I can’t. and it worked. they were supposed to say something like: go away, but they did not. don’t know why. maybe because I explained _why_ I cheated. I’m a hacker. can you understand the word I just said? I never go the way I’m supposed to. I prefer to do something unexpected. finally, there is always one more way than it’s expected. that way – is my way. real life asks only “what” (need to do), but never wonders “how”. real protection is not a crack-me, begging, oh, please, don’t patch me, oh, man, you should understand the logic. should I? why? for what reason?
nowadays. I know nothing, I mean _nothing_ about cryptography (though, McAfee is going to patent my finding, related to crypto), I’d never even seen Blu-Ray disk, but I’m on my way to work for former Cryptography Research group, focused on protecting Blu-Rays. It was my dream and it came true. I _will_ do move to San-Francisco or bay area. even if Macrovision will decide do not hire me, well, there is McAfee headquarters in Santa-Clara. even if McAfee will decide do not hire me, well, it’s California – the cradle of many companies. and I’m a reverser. I will do find my job there. well, maybe not… my team is in DC. we were together more than a year. I know them, they know me, I have a job, I like what I’m doing and (what is more important) I see my future in McAfee, but have no idea what I’m going to do for Macrovision.
the funniest thing is – I’m still an independent consultant. I have no position neither in McAfee, nor in Macrovision and this fact pissed me off. and the more important thing is – why the states? moving to the states it’s a standard. moving to South Africa it’s… yeah, it’s something that nobody expects me to do. come on, I’m serious. South Africa it’s a good place to live! and for me is no problem to earn money working remotely. but… remote job means to be alone. fuck. what’s a fucking world. I don’t know why I wrote this post and what’s it for. I’m like Buridan’s ass placed exactly in the middle between two stacks of hay of equal size, starves to death since it’s too hard to make any rational decision to start eating one rather than the other. the only way is – just forgot these two stacks and find the third. this is the only way to solve the problem, especially if one stake exclude another.