Few digital forensics practitioners would dispute that their job is largely sedentary: there’s a lot of sitting, be it in labs, vehicles (including aircraft), meeting rooms, and conference lecture rooms, among others.
That only became more true in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic grounded many people at home. There, even the option to get up and walk around an office building, airport, or conference venue was gone. Meanwhile, eating and drinking habits changed drastically, as people took up baking comfort foods and drinking, well, comfort drinks.
Many, however, sought more sustainable coping and wellness strategies, especially as the pandemic and its lockdowns dragged on. For the digital forensics community, the grassroots #DFIRfit movement, and in particular its #DFIRFitin2020 challenge, offered a way to engage in healthier activities — and to give back, whether in the form of advice to fellow enthusiasts, or by supporting the movement’s charitable giving efforts.
At the start of 2021, most people are back in the lab at least part time, though for many, travel, trials, and a full-time office presence are still curtailed. #DFIRFitin2021 has launched, with a brand-new community forum and “multiple ways of entering your activities this year, to try and be as inclusive as possible,” says #DFIRfit motivator Kathryn Hedley. Could #DFIRfit be a good fit for you?
What #DFIRfit is — and isn’t
“There is one thing that #DFIRfit has never been,” says #DFIRfit motivator Brian Moran, owner and operator of BriMor Labs, “and that it will never, ever be. It will never be an ‘exclusive’ community. We don’t care if you are a pentester, an IR consultant, a system administrator, a CISO, a chef, or a screenwriter, you don’t even have to come from a “technical” or “cyber” related career field.”
(Hedley adds: “It is never our intention to exclude anyone, and if we inadvertently do, please do drop one of us a message to let us know.”)
The other thing it isn’t: any kind of strict weight-loss regime. “The goal is to be more active and try to make healthier overall choices,” Moran explains. “Usually weight loss is a by-product of that, but by no means are we trying to encourage the mindset of ‘drop 15 pounds in a week’ or ‘lose three pant sizes by following these three simpe life hacks.’”
For Hedley, a SANS Institute author/instructor, and Jessica Hyde, director of forensics at Magnet Forensics, #DFIRfit is about motivation — of self and others. “For me, #DFIRFit is about moving your body and finding the motivation with others to do so,” says Hyde.
She adds: “It is also about finding ways to do things when you may be on work travel or not have access to a gym.When I am stuck in hotel rooms, I will check out low-impact YouTube videos from JessicaSmitchTV – all things I can do in a small space in a small amount of time without equipment to get moving without waking the other hotel guests.”
“It’s a community of like-minded individuals, who like to try and be active in many different ways, and enjoy the company of others trying to do the same,” adds Hedley, to which Moran adds: “All you have to do is try to get up and get moving a bit more than you normally would, and we ask that you help try to inspire others to do the same.”
He adds that there’s no shortage of longtime fitness enthusiasts who are available to provide information to anyone who asks. “We aren’t here to promote products or companies, we are here to try to help people improve their physical health, while ensuring that we limit any exposure to potential injuries as much as possible,” he explains. “We usually check with others within the fitness communities that we implicitly trust before making any recommendations. Doing something that causes an injury or setback defeats that purpose!”
How it started, and how it’s going
The hashtag #DFIRfit was created in July 2017. Analyst Stacey Randolph, its creator, wanted to motivate fellow practitioners seeking to be more physically active — by creating a small community.
Since then, while Moran says the #DFIRFit community has “grown considerably” since its inception, the numbers — of participants, tweets, or other metrics — matter less than its benefit to participants.
“We’ve not only had amazing transformations this year, but also throughout the length of the overall movement,” Moran explains. “Some people have literally become half the size of the human being that they used to be!”
That said, growth can be measured in other ways. Hedley says more than 50 people signed up for the #DFIRfitin2020 challenge, a pre-pandemic initiative that had been planned “simply to provide encouragement for people to get and stay active throughout the year.”
Then came the pandemic, and many gyms closed. Even after they reopened, people remained at home in order to reduce their risk of exposure. Hedley says virtual challenges filled the gap; likewise, says Moran, online programs like Beachbody, Peloton, Nike Training Club, yoga, “even just piecing together multiple routines that they have found online,” he adds.
What they all had in common: online communities. “I’ve noticed quite a bit of outreach from people asking questions,” says Moran. Hedley adds: “I think the trend of connecting more online via groups such as #DFIRFit during [COVID] times is evident through the emergence of many other #_____Fit groups within the InfoSec community.”
To that end, Hedley points to the launch of the #DFIRFit Forum at dfirfit.com. “Intended to be a one-stop shop for all things #DFIRFit!” she explains. “We have a feed from Twitter, a forum where people can ask questions, a blog where some of the group have reviewed fitness equipment etc., and we try to post links to regular workouts we’re doing, swag you can purchase, and other cool info that others might be interested in.”
Participation isn’t the only thing that’s grown. Hyde says so have the number of #DFIRFit events that raise money for charities and awareness — a factor in participants’ motivation. Hedley explains, “We decided to continue that trend and came up with the hashtag #DFIRFit4Good.
“So on top of trying to ensure we are healthier, we also like to encourage those of us on a personal wellness journey to also give back to charities/organizations/groups that may need support too, where they can.” Among the efforts:
- A combined $4000 — thanks in part to a match from Magnet Forensics — raised for three charities (Play Like A Girl, Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, and Gates Foundation Combating COVID-19 Fund).
- $3000+ raised for Bletchley Park due to #DFIRFit4BP / #Bricks4Codebreakers. “In September we kicked off the Cryptographer’s Challenge, which supports Bletchley Park by raising money for [commemorative] bricks for veterans/workers who worked in secret to crack German codes during World War II, shortening the war by 2-4 years,” Hedley explains. Besides honoring the workers, the funds are also an effort “to try and keep Bletchley Park open for future generations” — especially following COVID-19-driven staff redundancies at the organization. So far, 38 bricks in total — 20 through #DFIRFit4BP and other initial #Bricks4Codebreakers efforts, and another 18 during a Christmas Eve #Marathon4Codebreakers run completed by Hedley with Sarah Edwards (@iamevltwin) — have been funded.
- $1000 raised for Girls Who Code, at the 2019 Magnet User Summit. Moran, together with Heather Smith (@LitMoose), donned a dinosaur costume for a #DFIRFit fun run/walk the morning before the conference started. “We were meant to be the ‘chase predators’ of the groups,” Moran explains.
For the 2020 Magnet User Summit, says Moran, “We had planned to take it up a level and actually got legitimate medals made, however, with the event being virtual we had to make some last minute changes.”
Those included a series of dinosaur-themed videos that encouraged participants to work out, says Hyde — and a contest for people to #DFIRFit in costume, including Hedley’s ninja and Geraldine Blay’s Wonder Woman.
The work is continuing in 2021. The new #DFIRFit4BP store, which sells branded apparel as well as additional swag variations to go with new themes, donates all profits to Bletchley Park. (A previous swag offering — #DFIRfit shirts sold through the SANS Institute’s DFIR.com website — benefited Girls Who Code, but was available only to purchasers in the United States.)
“As a bit of a teaser, we do have some more themed ideas coming up,” says Moran, “so there will be more variations of #DFIRFit swag that will be made available to the public before too long!”
How to get started in #DFIRfit
Any and all activities qualify for participation — and that’s part of #DFIRfit’s appeal. “There’s no minimum, there’s no maximum, there are no expectations and no pressure,” says Hedley. “We all just want to encourage people to get active, in whatever way suits them.”
That, says Hyde, could include “everything from rock climbing, to weight lifting, to running, and biking to classes, to costumed motivation [like the dinosaur ‘predators’].”
“As we said previously, it’s all about moving more,” says Moran. “Sometimes that means running a marathon. Or going for a 50 mile bike ride. Or swimming 1000 meters. Or lifting weights for an hour. Or 15 minutes of yoga. Or walking at lunch for 15 minutes. There is no requirement to have special equipment, or expertise, or anything at all.”
“The whole point of it is encouragement and motivation,” Moran continues. “We aren’t trying to make everyone become record holding powerlifters (although we have those participants too!) just trying to encourage doing something, anything, to be a little more physically active.”
There might even be work-related value. “Many of us within the #DFIRFit community are data nerds at heart,” says Moran. “We love all the data about all the things. When we provide information about a product or trend or latest fitness fad, we have data that supports those statements. Most likely several of us have also performed independent analysis on those things as well. We can’t help it that the yearning for more reliable data sources and points that most of us strive for in our day jobs carry over to our personal lives too!”
If you’ve been lurking on Twitter — paying attention, but unsure whether to participate — Hedley says: “We all started somewhere and we all have different, individual goals. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from or what your goals are, there is a community here to support you if you choose to tap into it. We don’t bite and we’re not trying to show off. We’re simply trying to encourage and support others, whatever their journey.”
Ready to get started? #DFIRFitin2021 includes a route from The Gates of Hell near San Francisco to Normal, Illinois — “We felt this was a fitting route for the year!” says Hedley — for participants to follow and see their progress. “There’s also a Google Form if you just want to submit minutes of activity,” Hedley adds. “Either way, we have more cool swag to give away, and all the details can be found at dfirfitin2021.com.”
Correction: This article previously misidentified the creator of the #DFIRfit hashtag as Stacey Edwards. We have corrected her surname to Randolph.