Cyber Empathy

Why being kind is the harder thing to do

Episode Summary

This raw and heart-stirring conversation with Jayson E. Street left an indelible mark on me. Join us as we explore the profound strength behind genuine acts of kindness and the connection between cybersecurity and life's larger lessons. Be inspired to act with deeper intention.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, I'm joined by one of the first people who raised the empathy flag in cybersecurity and inspired the creation of this podcast, Jayson E. Street. Despite National Geographic describing him as a "World Class Hacker," he sees himself simply as a Hacker, a Helper, and a Human. 

Discover the transformative power of conscious kindness as he bares his soul in a deeply personal and heart-stirring conversation. Navigating the intricate dance of human imperfections, Jayson shares moving tales of sacrifice, flawed humanity, and the hidden emotional labor behind genuine acts of goodness. 

This isn't about feel-good stories or being the hero; it's about choosing to be kind even when the world doesn't seem to reward it.

Come along to discover Jayson's candid journey, from roadside moments of compassion to profound responsibilities, and uncover the true essence of self-improvement and the impact of small gestures. Let his vulnerability inspire you to embrace your own complexities and fuel a more compassionate way of being in the world. 

This episode might move you to act, think, and love with greater intention.

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Episode Transcription

[00:57] Andra Zaharia: Of all the episodes I've ever done for Cyber Empathy, this is the one in which I've spoken the least. But this is also the one in which I felt the most. Today's guest is representative of what I hope the cybersecurity industry will become, which is a space where we try to be our best selves every day; where we try to be better every day; do good for good people; and just practice our principles in a way that truly matters, even when it's uncomfortable, even when it's not easy, and especially in those moments. Now, Jayson E. Street is famous in the cybersecurity industry and beyond it. He's famous for his physical security testing engagements; for his wild stories; for his extremely passionate presentations; and for being one of the kindest people in cybersecurity, who always fights for what's right, and for what matters. And this is an episode that's like no other because Jason is a person that's like no other, but also quite similar to many of us. And you'll see why I'm saying this in the conversation that's following. Now, one of the things that I want you to keep in mind as you listen to this episode is that cybersecurity is not just about the technology; it's not confined to a space that we perhaps have defined in our minds. It seeps and sinks in through all of the nooks and crannies of our society in a way that connects everything together. And this is one of the things that I love about it. But the most important thing, and the thing that makes me so passionate about this topic, are the people in this industry. And Jason is one of the first people I've heard speak about empathy in cybersecurity. And I think that, in a way, he's part of why this podcast exists, and all the experiences that I've just lived around it. I'll let you listen to the episode now. I am still under the, let's say, effect and impression of the conversation. It's left me with some reflection points that I want to keep pursuing. And I'm really, really curious what you're going to take from it. This is Jayson E. Street.

[03:47] Andra Zaharia: So, Jayson, it was 2017 when you came on stage at DefCamp, which was my first cybersecurity conference ever, and seeing you talk had such a huge impact on my relationship with this industry and my perception of it. I was one of the few non-technical people there. I had no idea what I was doing at that point. I mean, I had the communication skills and my communication background, but everything still felt overwhelming and quite foreign to me. And you came on stage and talked about kindness and talked about empathy, and just brought this energy level that completely blew my mind. I was like, "Oh my God, wait, there's so much more to cybersecurity. Look at all of these things that he's talking about." And not only are people listening, but I can feel something in them change as you were speaking. And then I mustered up somehow the courage to come talk to you and say hi and say thank you for the talk. And I was so nervous that I barely remember what I said. I think I blacked out a little bit and then the past year since I have not just followed your work, but seen your impact grow bigger and larger and have ripple effects on people so far across the industry and well beyond it, that it is amazing to me how consistent and how perseverant you are in talking about those things that most people don't talk about. And they'd rather avoid things like feelings, things like emotion, things like all of the things that are wrong in this industry and in other connected areas. My first question is: What keeps you going? How do you find the energy to do all of these things and to give so generously to all of us who kind of draw inspiration from your work?

[05:51] Jayson E. Street: I keep going because I don't know how to stop. It is one of those things where it’s like, "This is what I do." I don't see myself doing anything else. I love teaching; I've always wanted to be a teacher. Even if I'm robbing somebody,  I'm teaching them because it ends up becoming a lesson. And I tell people, it's about education, not exploitation. I'm always trying to help make people better, to make them more secure. And I crater. Everybody sees me when I'm on; I've got all that energy. So, it's one of those ebbs and flows. You just keep going until you need to take that break, and you need to take that rest, and then you just gather that strength up again, and you go again. I think, especially in our society, where we don't realize that it's okay to be not okay, and say, "I just want a self-care day where I'm just chilling and binging and not having to do anything," because that makes you more productive in the long run, that makes you more able to keep doing that. I think that's one of the main ways that I do that is I realized that some days, I'm just not going to be okay and that I can take a break, and not have to be what everybody wants me to be. And I can just be tired and exhausted. So, I do that and I think that helps recharge me a little bit. Sometimes I'll go riding my bike. Sometimes I'll play some No Man's Sky. Sometimes I'll just do things that I'm like, "This is what I want to do, not what I have to do, or what someone's expecting me to do, or what someone expects of me." I think that's how I keep going. Basically, it's because I came from a very horrible childhood. They raised me against the Geneva Conventions; it was bad. And so what I decided to do was like, I decided that instead of being the monster that I was raised to be, I'm going to be one of the ones that stops the monsters. I want to be one of the ones that make the bad guys have a bad day. And somehow I got broken in just the right way that that’s what I aim to do. I started out in physical security as a supplement officer for law enforcement. I've always liked making bad guys have bad days.

[08:27] Andra Zaharia: And you do that so, so well around the world. But it's not just what you do; it's how you do it. A thing that you're one of those rare people who's able to teach others and to explain, and to be vulnerable and open, not just about the work that you do, but how you do it. And how you do it is what makes it even more meaningful. The way that you explain in your talks, how you operate and how you think about sayings, and how you approach situations—that is a masterclass in psychology, in my opinion. Those stories are so powerful that they stay with you for years and years, and they resonate. I've heard people around me tell the stories that you told, quite accurately. I have seen myself do the same in a context where, again, we're overflowing with information, and everyone wants to tell their stories, and so on and so forth. But you were memorable in a special kind of way. And in my opinion, I do want to understand what was the inflection point that led you to choose to focus on cybersecurity. Because you could have done a number of things; you could have developed in any way; you could have been a teacher, which you are—a nonstandard teacher, a rebel teacher—but you could have gone in a number of ways. So, do you remember what particular experience led you to think, "Oh, this is an avenue for my abilities that I want to pursue"?

[10:05] Jayson E. Street: Well, actually, yes. I have a very particularly weird brain pattern where my brain doesn't operate the way—because I've talked to other people, and they're like, "Yeah, that's weird." Because I have multitrack thoughts all the time, and a lot of people have multitrack thoughts, but I can pinpoint times and dissect: "Based on this decision that happened this decade ago, that led to this, which led to that encounter, which led to me being here." And people always say, "Well, you've led a very hard life." And I'm like, "Yes, but all those dark paths and those dark turns led me to where I'm at now." And if some of those paths didn't happen, I wouldn't be where I'm at. Back in 1995, I was driving in a car during a delivery, and then I heard a car commercial for phone-in tech support for Dell or Gateway, or it was for Gateway back in the day. That's how old it was—'95. I'm old. And I was like, "I like computers." And I was working at a task force. No, so it was after the task force when I was working just regular security. I'd gotten shot at Task Force, and I just got tired of it. And so I went to the physical security that I was doing, and I was doing that as well. And I was like, "I can do tech support. I'm working on computers." I had some of the officers have me come and help them with their computer to troubleshoot. So I went and interviewed, and I got the job—software support for a company. 

[11:41] Jayson E. Street: And then I think it was around '98 or '97, I got into management. And that's when I learned a very valuable lesson very early on: I suck at management. I am not good at managing people; I am not good at dealing with organizational skills; I am not good at handling all that—that's just not me. Then there were layoffs, and then in '99, I started working for a mutual funds company, which lasted until they relocated to Chicago. And then in 2000, I got a job working at CompuBank, which was an internet-only bank, obviously, before the dot-com bust. And then I met a guy named Tim Smith, who said—who didn't have his office quite ready—and he heard me talking to the other helpdesk guys. They would come to me and ask questions, and I'd answer them. I talked about my sword fighting back then because I do love sword fighting back then. And I talked about hacking the GUIs on my machines and stuff. And he was like, "I need a security guy. Would you be interested in being my junior security guy for computer?" And I was like, "Hold on, you can do computers and security, and no one shoots at you? Oh, yeah, I'm in—that sounds awesome." And I started that in 2000, and 23 years—I've never looked back. That was the moment, and Tim Smith was the person who got me into that and started me, and he was an amazing boss. He was a wonderful mentor; he got me in there; he helped me start it out. I was not very good at my job at first because I had a lot of that—some physical and law enforcement security—where everybody was a perpetrator. I was looking at my employees as possible suspects. So I didn't start out very well, but it took me a while. And I did a talk once, actually, about my failures, and that was one of them: when I first started out, I did not approach it the right way. I then got into computer security, had one company go here, one company go there, and ended up working for a bank in 2003. And then in 2006, working for the same bank, I was like, "Well, I want to start doing some network pentesting. I want to start testing our defenses. I've built our defenses, and they're really good." Because I didn't build defenses like, "Oh, this is how powerful it is to build them." I was like, "If I'm going to break it, how would I stop that person from doing it? How would I stop me from doing it? How would I stop myself from breaking into this place?" Because I would see like, "Oh, there's a vulnerability here; we need to stop that," and they're like, "Well, that's not really--" That's exactly how I would exploit it. You don't see it that way, but I see that that's a way to do it. 

[14:38] Jayson E. Street: So that's how I did that. And so I was like, "Well, we need to start testing it now. We can't just have the defenses if we're not testing them." So I started doing some network testing. I hated network-based attacks; there was no feedback. It was just like, "Oh, I've got session one spawned." It's a command prompt; there's no excitement there; it's just, "Okay, yes, I broke into something, and I've got data." But then around 2009-2010, I started hearing more about social engineering. I got inspired by a guy who, once again, on stage, a wonderful person; off stage, a horrible human being. But it got me interested, like, "Oh, you can break into places in real life." And so I told the bank that I was working for, "Hey, I need to start testing our physical security as well." And using my past physical security experience with this new twist, I'm trying to do social engineering while I do it. And it turned out, I'm really good at robbing banks, so I started doing that more and more. And then in 2016, I realized, "If I'm just breaking this stuff and writing reports, I'm not really helping people." And so then I chose to stop doing red team kind of engagements and started doing what I called Security Awareness engagements, where I made sure that I would do it but also, I would make sure that I got caught, so I can give them a win. So I can give it a positive experience to it. I also made sure that every time I compromised someone, that I would come back to them and educate them right there on the spot, telling them what they could do to improve, telling them how it wasn't on them, how they weren't at fault, how they weren't in trouble, how it was a lesson, not a loss, and how we were there to help them be better. And then that's why I switched that, and so I have not stopped from doing that. And I also do training now; that's one of the best things about working with TruSec is they let me do my training; they let me do the security awareness engagements; they let me do the stuff that I love to do, which is basically just to help people be better, and showing them how bad guys actually do these kinds of things, and how to protect against it.

[16:57] Andra Zaharia: And all of those stories, this timeline that you so concisely took us through has just been an insane amount of incredible stories behind it. Of so many different people that you've met all across the world, in so many different situations through your physical testing engagements, in conferences and events, just in all of the situations that we can imagine, and probably so many more that we cannot. I'm really curious: What is one thing that you've seen people have in common when you interact with them when they're in situations when they think about security, either from a specialist perspective or as someone who's outside the industry? What bridges the apparent gap, the apparent divide, between security people and, let's say, non-security people?

[17:55] Jayson E. Street: First of all, it sort of bridges on. I want to start off with one thing: One of the biggest myths society tries to sell us is the myth of "different." I'm from America, and you're from Romania; so, therefore, you're different. Or you're from Romania, and you're from Bulgaria; y'all are completely different. "Oh, Germans—oh, you know how the Germans are? And oh my gosh, the French—oh, but what about those Dutch? Oh, yeah, but the South Africans"—it goes on. We keep trying to make everything different. And that is such BS. People wonder why I'm able to successfully rob places all over the world; it's because I understand that one important fact: that I'm not going after a South African, or a Lebanese person, or a German, or a Chinese person, or a Singaporean, or Brazilian. I'm going after a human. Human nature is universal. Saying that you're "different" and making it sound like it's some kind of alien or foreign concept is 100% wrong. I'm from Texas, in the United States. And trust me, there are cultural differences between me being a Texan and someone from New York, or someone from California, even someone from Florida, or Arkansas, or wherever. All those areas have their own culture, their own local identity, their own localized ethnicity. And that's one thing that we overlook. It's the geographic ethnicity, the social ethnicity, and then your core ethnicity. So, I go after people in their work environment. And it doesn't matter where you are in the world; you're going to be thinking, "I've got my job to do. I want to do my work. I don't really care about anybody else. I got this deadline. I don't care. I'm on the clock." It goes everywhere. Everybody, when it comes to security, it's the same kind of thing, whether they're in the industry or not, what they're concerned about is, "What can be stolen from me? What kind of damage can be done? And if they take things from my online account, or they grab pictures off my phone, what damage can that be to me? How could that affect me?" Those are the things that people care about.

[20:47] Jayson E. Street: So we have to address people on their needs: "What's in it for them? How do you protect yourself?" And if we can get people more individualized, worrying, and understanding that they need to protect their own personal little bubble, then they'll take that to work. And the other thing—and the biggest failing that most people have—is equating digital experiences to real-life experiences. What happens on the computer isn't as real as what happens in real life. Getting robbed at gunpoint and getting a week's pay stolen from you, from out of your wallet or your purse, is traumatic. But isn't it also as traumatic when someone steals a month's worth of your salary from your banking account, or through a scam? So, we don't equate that. And that's one of the things that I try to do: I try to explain to people that the stuff that happens on that computer is just as real and just as impactful as what's happening in your real life. And it's hard to equate that because it's through a screen, but it is what it is. That is where the most damage is being done. Guns are great for committing crimes, but it takes a lot of time and effort, and you gotta be out, you gotta go put pants on, and you gotta go out onto a street corner and wait to mug somebody. It's a lot of work. Computers make crime way more easier. These aren't hackers committing crimes; these are criminals using a tool to commit a crime, just like they weren't gunsmiths or gun makers when they were using that gun to commit a crime. So that's the whole point: Computers have made it easier to commit this crime. But it also has made people easier to forget the actual real-world impact that it's having, because we see numbers on an account in our checking account. And that's not as real as seeing the cash in hand.

[22:59] Andra Zaharia: It is so true. And one of the biggest contributions that you make into this space is giving that emotional context, giving people that emotional experience when they listen to you, when they see you in documentaries when they read your tweets. You give them that feeling of what it feels like, of what an attacker thinks about when they're targeting someone. And a thing that matters a lot: the ability to express this emotion, to convey it, to convey the nuance, to bring people into this world that they still feel isn't for them, simply because it just feels, again, alien, removed, just too abstract for them to even worry about. One of the things that I wanted to mention here is that there's one of Dan Ariely's books about our relationship with money and some biases that we have. He did a bunch of experiments, and one of the things was actually related to money. The result is that we tend to spend a lot more when we're spending digital money as opposed to spending cash, simply because there's this tactile feedback that's so ingrained into our biology. Our biology has not evolved with technology. And I think we tend to forget that. We tend to look at ourselves as a species in a way that's a bit idealized, in a way that's a bit removed from reality. And technologists become so enamored; they fall in love with their creations. And we forget that we still have a lot of basic things to cover, like human rights, making people safe, giving them food, making sure they don't die because of global warming, and a bunch of other things.

[24:53] Jayson E. Street: Well, see, that's one of the other problems: Because it's on a screen, that's the reason why people sometimes are so bad to other people is because they're just seeing it on a screen; it's not being real to them. Except for when the person reads those comments, that's when they realize it's real because then it starts hurting. And that's when they realize, "Oh, this is not good." But when they're the ones dishing it; to them, it's not that big of a deal because they're just typing something out when they're angry, or they're just trying to be funny. And they don't understand the people that they're affecting because they're on the screen; they're anonymous.

[25:29] Andra Zaharia: When you first started talking, you were one of the first people in this industry to talk about empathy, and to talk about it consistently, and bring up things like discrimination, things like gender bias, and give real examples of what that feels like, and be very vocal about these things. And what changed in people's perspectives, since your first talks, to how people react to them, and what they do with this information and energy that you give them today? 

[26:02] Jayson E. Street: For the most part, I think there is a lot more acceptance, and people are understanding that, yes, I love this new generation. The only thing that has given me hope that the Boomers are not going to totally destroy society is how Gen Z is actually getting involved. They're actively saying, "We're in a doomsday scenario; we should try to fix this," and they're fixing things. I'm Gen X, so, I was like the forgotten generation. I learned how to survive on my own; it was the survival of the fittest. They are about the survival of the group, the survival of cooperation, and the survival of the community. So, I really like that about them, and that gives me hope. I see that happening where they're seeing, "If it happens to one, it happens to all." I try not to get political. People think that I get political and they make it sound like, "Well, you're this." No, I'm not a Democrat; I'm not a Republican; I'm a human. And I am sorry that if one party is predominantly trying to take care of people more than the other party, then I'm going to go with that party. When I gave a talk last year—I think it was last year; I have a very bad problem with memory—I used Ukraine as a theme. I was talking about how I have Russian friends, and they are still my friends, and I still care about them. One of the things that we forget is that Putin has gone to war with Ukraine. There are plenty of Russians who do not believe in that. I have a Russian friend of mine who is still MIA because he was protesting in Moscow against the Ukraine war. I know other friends who were trying to get people out of Russia and helping them escape so they would not have to be drafted to go into a war they didn't want to go into. And my Russian friends were thinking, "So you're against us because you're making this pro-Ukrainian talk." 

[28:30] Jayson E. Street: So, I made sure, when I started hearing that feedback, that I put a slide in at the very beginning. What it showed was President Bush getting a shoe thrown at him in Iraq because I wanted them to understand: I was totally against the Iraq invasion; it was totally stupid. I will speak out when countries make bad decisions. When countries have their own policies, government, and laws, I try not to say that much. It's not because I'm a coward; it's because it's not my place to say. Too many Americans, and too many people, want to say, "Well, this is how y'all should be doing it." No, we've got our own problems. I'm in a state that can't even fix their power grid. They can't even take care of their own basic necessities in this government because they're too busy worried about women's genitalia and trying to regulate that. If our power grid could be classified as a uterus, it would be the most regulated power grid in the country. And we wouldn't have people dying during the winter or the summer because of environmental changes that we don't want to talk about, take care of, or address. So, no, when something goes wrong, I will talk about it. But I'm not going to go and say, "Oh, your government could do this much better," because I'm going there to talk to the people, not to the government. And that's the whole point: we need to get these messages out.

[29:59] Jayson E. Street: After 2016, it got so much more partisan. I have friends who are Republican, and I mean that in a respectful way. They have certain disagreements, and I understand that they love this country. They have different ideas on how they can make it better—not make it great again, but how they can improve it through their conservative policies on regulation and economic reform, and things of that nature. So, I can respectfully agree to disagree. I think we should focus more on social matters, trying to lift up everybody, trying to have more of a safety net. We can have a discourse; I don't think they hate this country, and they don't automatically think I hate this country. But somewhere around 2008, we started losing the fact that we could disagree, and that doesn't mean the other person is the enemy; it's just a person we disagree with. Then 2016 mobilized all this resentment and, let's be honest, all this racism and white power. People felt left out because they're realizing, "Oh my gosh, maybe whiteness isn't going to be the predominant force in our world," as it should be. There shouldn't be a predominant force based on race. If that makes sense—I don't always talk very well. But really, the best thing is this: it reminds me of the common understanding that these people are feeling fragile. I said this in a talk at Tribal Hacker Summit, which was a good talk. I actually talked about empathy a lot in that talk as well. It was a really good talk from the sociopath point of view. The key thing that I said there, and it still holds true today, is: if you're a white person in America and you're so afraid of becoming a minority in this country, then that means you understand how bad minorities have it in this country. And why aren't you helping to improve that before you become one, instead of making it worse and trying to hurt others who are a minority right now? That's one of the key things. And that's what's happened in these last four, five, six years now, where we've gotten to so much division. "Oh, you disagree with me; you're a horrible, disgusting, filthy animal that I have to challenge and put down to save the world." 

[32:56] Jayson E. Street: I was in a talk in Austin, and I admit it was a very controversial talk if you're a horrible person, in my opinion. It was literally talking about the problems that we have with racism, the problems we have with holding people up who are bad, like John Wayne and Bill Cosby. People were like, "Oh, but they're popular and they're famous." No, they are bad people; I don't care what they made, they're bad people. Even if Hitler's art was good, he's still a bad person. It doesn't matter. I'm not an art critic; he's just a horrible person, and probably a lousy artist too. And so, the whole thing is that a guy interrupted me when I started talking about women's autonomy and LGBTQ issues that we have in Texas. He wanted to start quoting scripture at me. I said, "Look, I'm a Christian, but I'm a pre-Nicene Creed Christian. In other words, I actually understand and read the Bible, not the 1943 version that the United States changed to make it more anti-gay, or the King James version, which is misogynistic." I stopped my whole talk and went to town on this guy because it was not going to happen on my watch. And that's what more people need to understand. But he felt comfortable interrupting me while on stage to spout this hate because he thought he was in the right. And I am sorry, we get to this point where cable news has created this falsehood that there are two sides to every story, that there are two truths or something. No, I am not going to debate a flat-earther; it's just not going to happen. "Oh, I believe there are--" No, you're stupid; you're either trolling me, or you need help, and I can't help you. It's not a "respectfully agree to disagree" situation; you're wrong, and you could hurt people. This whole COVID fantasy vaccine stuff—people are like, "Oh, I don't trust the vaccine." But you're taking horse medicine, what's wrong with you? It's the truth, and then your feelings don't matter when the truth is evident in science. And that's one of the problems is that more people are becoming comfortable saying really bad things and not really caring who they hurt when they say it. And I want to be at a place where people have consequences. You can have the freedom to say whatever you want in this country, but you need to understand: you also have the freedom to accept those consequences too.

[35:52] Andra Zaharia: I think that all of these things are related because they obviously bleed into not just cybersecurity because cybersecurity is just a meeting point for so many things that happen in our society. And this is why I believe cybersecurity has always been a bit of a philosophical thing, a bit of something that requires logic and critical thinking. Just because it sits under all of these things. And this thing that you mentioned, about having principles and acting on them and not making ego-driven decisions—not to sound too cliché, but the stakes are really high in cybersecurity as well. When we're talking about just making sure that systems that the entire planet uses remain safe to use, otherwise civilization might crumble. And not to exaggerate in any way, making sure that we use technology not to polarize society, to the point that we're hitting each other in the head and chasing each other around the streets, simply because there's a social platform that encourages hate. And all of the things that people have fought for hundreds of years to abolish, to try to right, to try to educate, to try to enlighten, to try to open people's minds — there's such a huge risk of taking 1,000 steps back, which would be a terrible, terrible shame. And I appreciate you speaking out, not just for issues that are related to the industry, but about things that matter to many of us; about things that have this real-life impact, because they mold our thinking, they mold our decision-making. Not having positive examples is what chips away at our ability to believe that good is out there, that we can do good things, that we can be good people. And we're not "less than." There's this kind of saying in Romanian, where you do a lousy thing, and someone who disobeys the laws, which is so ingrained in the culture, says, "That guy did something wrong, and he's fine. Like, I'm stupid for being right." And I feel like this is an example of the power of language. If we tell ourselves that we're "less than" for doing the right thing, that we're just missing out on opportunities because we want to do things well and correctly and be ethical and be nice to other people and just be moral— this is a disservice that we're doing both to ourselves and then the world. So, having people like you give an example of what it means to take this principled approach to life and sustain it, I think, is incredibly important. And I'm very grateful that you talk about these things and also give people the words to talk about these things when they can't find them themselves.

[38:56] Jayson E. Street: When I was growing up, I was a freak; I was an outcast; I was different. There was no such thing in the '70s as autism; there was no thing about being on the spectrum; there was no ADHD; you're hyperactive; you're a troubled child. I came from a very abusive home. So, I was punished. I had to learn how to hide all that stuff. There was no one like me. So, therefore, I didn't understand what was wrong with me. So, therefore, it was bad, and I was bad. So, the reason why I'm so open and public about my struggles and my challenges and stuff, my mental health with everything else and trying to be who I am, is because I want other people to understand that they're not alone. It's sometimes a misconception; people think that I'm a good guy, and they are like, "Oh, he's such a different—" I was raised, and you have to understand, I was a horrible troubled person. I was not a good person. When I was younger, I lied no matter what, just because I wanted to create different stories in my head; I wanted different truths to be happening. I told the teacher—they asked where my sister was—I told her, "She broke her arm diving off into the pool." This was when I was seven. She went to school the next day with no broken arm. But it just sounded like a cool story to tell. And when I got into my 20s, after all the abuse and all the stuff, from being homeless and being victimized and everything like that, I was so angry. I literally would seek out confrontation from people. I never threw the first punch. But man, I was dedicated to throwing the last. And I got into so many scraps; I got into so many fights. I was not a good person. So, people think that, "Oh, he's such a great person." No, still, in my heart to this day, I am a bad person that has made the conscious decision, the logical decision, to be good. I'm not doing things. Naturally, my first thought is to go, "Oh, well, of course, I got—" No, I am making a conscious decision that I don't care what I would normally do or what most people will do. I want to do this because I know what's right. And that takes a lot more effort. 

[41:40] Jayson E. Street: I've had people test me to this day, and they will come up with something and I have to remind them, "There's a lot of options, but I still have violence as an option. That's still one of my options. Okay, don't step to me like that." And I surprise people when I've come to them because they think that they mistake my kindness for weakness. No, I am being kind because it's the harder thing to do, but it's the right thing to do. I sometimes feel petty; I sometimes feel like I'm angry; I have anger management issues. It's just I want consciously to be better and to do better. And it's one of the reason why I keep saying, especially with hackers, we are so blessed with the abilities to just be anything that we want in the world, to go out and do what we want to accomplish. And if we can be anything that we want, why not be kind? Why not try to help? I mean, I've seen so many people out there that have gone through so much trauma, and their response is, "Well, I'm going to visit that trauma onto other people because it happened to me." And I'm like, "I would rather stop the trauma from happening to anyone. I didn't want it to happen to me; I don't want it to happen to anyone else." So, why aren't we trying to make it better for others in this industry? Why are we trying to help people that are just starting out? Why aren't we trying to help people that are coming? Why are we trying to help the employees that sort of don't grasp what we're trying to do? Why are we going out and making more efforts to help them? It is not convenient; it is not easy; and it is not rewarding sometimes, but it's the right thing to do. And I think that we forget that. I think we keep trying to make it like, "Oh, he's a nice guy," or, "Oh, he's a good guy." No, that's making excuses, and that's putting like a nice little paintbrush on it. No, everyone that you meet—she, they, he—they're all people that have bad days, that have human nature in them, that are making a conscious choice to do the right thing. 

[44:00] Jayson E. Street: We need to start better at acknowledging that and recognizing that and stop just trying to expect people to be kind and start understanding that we need to make the conscious decision to understand that they're being kind, or that you're going to be kind, that you're going to do something good. I've stopped on the side of the road as much as I possibly can to help people that are in need, that are changing their tires and like that; not every time, I'm not a saint, but I do it quite a bit. And the reason why I do it is not because it's easy, not because I had plenty of time, but because I know in my heart that it's the right thing to do, that I want someone to do it for me when I go and take time to go and help someone else. And there are sometimes—trust me—I've helped people, and I've resented the hell out of it. I get angry about it. Do I still do it? Yes. I'm not doing it for brownie points; I'm just doing it because it's right. A few years ago, I had my mother, who needed a place to stay, live at my house for a year. Trust me, people were amazed at that because she's a horrible piece of human being. She told me when I was five, that she didn't make boys and she should have taken the Mexican girl home from the hospital, which was saying something since she's racist. And once again, a horrible person. And our relationship went worse from there. But I had to let her stay at our house, not because it was something that I wanted, it was because something that had to be done. Not to help her—because I could care less about her—but to help my sister out because she needed the break; she needed to recoup; and she needed to get herself together. So, I took that burden from her. You're not supposed to be enjoying all this stuff; you're not supposed to always get-- People are trying to say like, "Well, be nice, and I get a good feeling from it." It's not about getting a good feeling; it's not about you enjoying it; are you getting brownie points. God doesn't go and say, "Oh, okay, I wasn't gonna let you in. Okay, you did that. That was cool. Okay, you're in." I'm a flawed human being; I still make mistakes; I'm still going to make mistakes; I still hurt people; I still feel bad about it; I still try to make amends. But I still consciously, every day, just try to be better. And that's what I think that we forget, is that it takes conscious effort. It's not just being a good person; it's making that conscious decision that I'm going to try to help this person or do better, or think about what this person is going through and trying to improve them. Because it's going to cost me, and it's not going to help me, and it's not going to benefit me. But it's the right thing to do, and it will help them. And that's how you create those ripples. That's how you create those changes you want to see.

[47:09] Andra Zaharia: I really felt that; it really felt everything that you said. It takes so much emotional maturity. It takes so much understanding: why these things happened, why some of us have had really difficult childhoods, why we carry this burden of our survival mechanisms that have just helped us live and exist up to a point. But as adults, we do have—and as privileged adults who have a comfortable life—we not only have the option to make this choice over and over again, I feel like we also have the responsibility to do this. And to do this, hopefully, for people who don't have as much freedom as they want, as much support as they need, and so on and so forth.  Honestly, there's no follow-up question that can really round up everything that you said. I'm just very grateful to have met you, to kind of have had the opportunity to not just be in your presence, but also have access to this depth and this sincerity. Because I think that this is what changes people: these difficult topics, knowing that we have the ability to kind of contain within ourselves the good and the bad, all of the experiences that happen to us. And that we have that opportunity to create the space where we can choose something different—all day, every day, as much as we can. Just like you said, it's not always easy, being nice and kind and compassionate. But it is totally worth it. And you prove this over and over again. And thank you so much for this.

[48:59] Jayson E. Street: Thanks for letting me talk. I rambled a little bit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great seeing you again; it's been a while. So, very good. 

[49:07] Andra Zaharia: Well, hopefully, we'll get to see each other in person again at DefCamp or wherever else. 

[49:14] Jayson E. Street: I hope so. I love DefCamp.

[49:17] Andra Zaharia: Same. I just hope that everything that you give comes back to you in wonderful ways. 

[49:24] Jayson E. Street: Well, I hope not everything because like I said, I'm not totally good either. I'm sorry, I'm one of those that are totally honest. If we get what we deserve; we're in trouble. I would just like to have some nice stuff happen every once in a while.

[49:46] Andra Zaharia: Indeed. Cheers to you, Jayson! Thank you once again!