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A picture of Tarah Wheeler

Tarah Wheeler

Cybersecurity expert

in mac, security

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Tarah Wheeler, and I'm a policy wonk, entrepreneur, author, and board member for cybersecurity companies. I wrote Women In Tech for a Penguin Random House imprint, and an article called "In Cyberwar, There Are No Rules" for Foreign Policy. I'm writing another book now. I cook a lot, do embroidery, hack things, scream endlessly into the void of Twitter, take pictures of my Feline Overlords, and I'm a student pilot. I'm learning to fly Cessna 172s. I am a giant Mary Shelley fangirl and I'm currently also teaching a Zoom class in international political history to a bunch of bored high school girls who are stuck at home during the quarantine.

What hardware do you use?

Mostly Apple. MBP, iPad Pro, iPhone, etc. One day I'll feel safe leaving the house for travel without bringing my full laptop setup with me and I'll just have my iPad, but it ain't happened yet. I have a Republic of Gamers box that I mostly use for exploding VMs for offensive security purposes.

I have some other hardware I'm into hacking, like my RFID implants. I have an NFC chip in my right hand (currently has my contact info on it and my website) and a low frequency chip (like a Prox card) in my left.

I use a crappy Baofeng handheld for amateur radio, and I'm futzing with it now to figure out why the settings won't auto-adjust.

I like the Russian Alfa wireless adapter cards for wireless hacking, packet capture, and faking up wifi access points during security exercises.

I like to modify stuff in my home, so I once disassembled the MegaChef electric kettle I bought at Costco and replaced the blue LEDs in the base with red ones because my kitchen is all done in red with red appliances. The blue LEDs were harshing my calm when I would make tea, because they're so bright and also did not coordinate with my color scheme.

And what software?

Lots and lots of OmniFocus. It runs my day and I'm a super power user with some custom scripts. I pipe my email after a brief triage straight to my OF inbox, because I strongly believe in Inbox Zero. I do a lot of different things, and email isn't the best place to prioritize things.

For piloting, I'm super into ForeFlight customization. My Apple Pencil works really well with it, especially since I made a lanyard with a leather pouch for my multitool, charting pencil, redlight, and now my pencil. I've lost that thing under the seats of my plane a couple of times mid-flight by knocking it off the side of my iPad on my kneeboard. There's just no way to crawl under a seat looking for your pencil if you're jammed into a cockpit with your flight instructor eyeballing you like "I told you technology would get you killed; now look OUTSIDE the plane".

What would be your dream setup?

I wish I could change languages on all my setups seamlessly. I speak French and Italian mostly by dint of a serious effort to read articles, listen to news, and read all my tech interfaces in those languages, and it's the best way to practice for me. While as a cybersecurity pro this thought makes me scream in horror, for convenience's sake I wish that the Garmin 1000 glass cockpit in Cessnas integrated with my iPad for post-flight logging and (not to be gruesome) post mortems.

I have an extra ancient Android tablet around here somewhere and I want to make it up into a kitchen tablet that just does a couple of things, like pull up recipes on AllRecipes or GoodEats, shows a freezer inventory, and maybe plays podcasts or can handle multiple alarms for cooking timing and so forth. Maybe I could use some temperature sensors to also turn it into an IoT monitor for my fridge and freezer remotely and maybe to run a sous-vide app. I'm at home like everyone else, so I'm going through bins of old hardware and PCBs and making Frankenboards to see what happens.