So You Wanna Be A DFIR Blogger

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 Posted by Corey Harrell
It was a little over two years ago when I started Journey Into Incident Response (aka jIIr). In these two years I learned a lot about blogging on technical topics so I wanted to share some tips and advice for those considering taking the plunge into the blogosphere. The following are some things to consider from planning your blog to setting it up to maintaining it:

      -  Why
      -  Motivation
      -  Post Frequency
      -  Content
      -  Publishing Method
      -  Blog Template
      -  Blog Configuration
      -  Blog Post Tips
      -  Advertising
      -  Gauging Interest
      -  Motivation


My first question to any would be blogger is why. Why do you want to put yourself through the agony of sacrificing your personal time and resources so you can share your experiences and research. There are other avenues to take; write an article and submit it to a site offering free content (such as DFI News or Forensic Focus). Write a post for a blog that publishes guest posts (such as SANs Forensic blog or Girl, Unallocated). I’m not trying to talk anyone out of blogging since it has been a rewarding experience. On the contrary, I’m just trying to get my point across that blogging is a lot of work and in the end you are doing it for free. When I decided to start blogging I told my wife “it will be easy”. Sure I had a new born to go along with my two other sons, was pursing my Masters degree, and still had a full time security job but I seriously thought putting together a few posts a month would be a cake walk. My perspective changed pretty quick after I wrote my first few posts.

If you have any hesitation about not wanting to put in the work then consider the other options available. If you made up your mind and blogging is the route you want to take then the remaining tips may be helpful.


People who start blogging have a reason why they are doing it. For some it’s to give back to the community, for others it’s for name recognition, for some it’s a platform they control to share their research, and for the rest it’s any number of reasons. Before you even start setting up a blog make sure you know what your true motivation is. There will be times when you have writers block or you just don’t feel like writing anything so whatever your reason is for blogging needs to be enough to motivate you to put the keyboard to word processor. Your motivation needs to come from within since most of the time others can’t do this for you.


This was something that helped me so I wanted to pass this nugget along. Before you even start worrying about content, site design, or any other details take some time to consider how often you want to update your blog. If you look at other DFIR blogs you will notice a range in how often they are updated. From multiple updates in a week to monthly updates to yearly postings. As an author, I found it helpful to set myself a monthly goal of how many posts I wanted to put together. It helped to not only plan better on how to reach my monthly goal but it helped get me into the habit of writing regularly. As a blog reader, I tend to check the sites with a more regular update schedule more so I assume others readers do the same. If a blog gets updated at random times then it tends to fall off my radar until I see it in my RSS feeds. Whatever goal you set for yourself it’s not something that needs to be publicized. It’s a personal goal for yourself and only for you to know. I’m only mentioning my goal since I’m giving this advice. I always wanted to write three substantial posts per month so at the end of the year I would have 36 decent write-ups.


I also found it helpful to at least pick a theme for the blog. There are times when I’m not sure what to write about so having a theme gives me something to fall back on. As you might have noticed my theme is in the title: Journey Into Incident Response. I wanted to blog about the different things I learn and experience as I work on improving my skills and knowledge to investigate security incidents. If you do decide to pick a theme it doesn’t mean you are locked into it. Write about whatever you want whether if it’s about a book, tool, article, or anything else you are working on in the moment. The theme is just a crutch for when you start to run out of ideas which brings me to my next point. Make sure you have a blog idea hopper. Keep a list of different ideas for future posts and always add to it when you think of something new. Some ideas may never go beyond the hopper while others may turn into great articles. One of the reasons why I don’t struggle with ideas for posts is because I constantly have between 5 to 10 ideas in my hopper. If I need something to write about then I just look over my hopper and pick the one that interests me the most. Case in point, the idea for this post has been in my hopper for months.

Publishing Method

At this point you know why you want to blog, what your motivation is, how often you will update it, and you have a general idea about what content you want. The biggest decision you will now make is how you want to host your blog. The two most frequent publishing applications I see DFIR bloggers use are Word Press and Blogger. If you aren’t sure about what publishing application to use then reach out to the blog authors you read. I bet the authors are more than willing to let you know why they choose what they did and how they feel about their decision. As for me I went with Blogger for two simple reasons. First was because most of the blogs I followed at the time used the service and second was because I didn’t want to have to worry about maintaining software updates. All I want to do is blog and Blogger enabled me to do that.

Blog Template

The second biggest decision will be what template to use for your blog. The template is how your blog looks and what people will stare at when reading your posts. Your publishing application may have a few templates available that meet your needs. If the built-in templates aren’t what you are looking for then there are free templates available online. What sites should you use to get a free template? Great question and it’s still one I can’t really answer today. The last thing I wanted was to get a free template with an embedded malicious link that would attack any visitor of my blog. So I took a closer look at a few DFIR blogs I followed to see where they got their templates. I went to each blog and viewed the site’s source code to find the template’s author website. The screenshot is from my blog’s current template but it’s also the website I saw in a ton of other DFIR blogs.

Blog Configuration

Remember growing up when people said first impressions matter? I think the statement is true even for blogging. When I was in the process of configuring my blog one setting I loved was the ability to restrict access to my blog. I pretty much prevented anyone from seeing the blog while I tried out different templates, options, and layouts. In Blogger I even used the setting preventing the site getting indexed by Google. I only removed the permissions, thus allowing anyone to see the blog, when I had everything set up the way I wanted. Configuring your blog is a matter of preference so my only advice is to don’t unveil it until it’s set up the way you want it.

Blog Post Tips

ITAuditSecurity has some great posts about blogging tips. As it relates to putting a post together one tip I wanted to echo was in his post Blogging: Choose Great Titles and Intro Sentences. His reasoning is not only do they grab the attention of readers but they also help in having better search engine results. I completely agree with his points and I wanted to build on it with another point. Picking good titles and intro sentences helps to let the reader know exactly what the post will be about. If the point of the post can’t be conveyed in a title or one sentence then make sure it is conveyed in the first paragraph. If the content of the post isn’t clear upfront then some readers will stop reading before they reach the part of the post where you make your point. In all of my posts I try very hard to make sure that the reader knows exactly what I’ll be talking about by the time they finish reading the first paragraph.


I remember thinking very clearly when I was getting ready to launch the blog “how do you advertise it to others”. I thought there was some secret so I reached out to Harlan for advice. At the time I was just a name from the Win4n6 group who Harlan helped once before but I figured who else would be better to ask them someone who has been blogging for years. Harlan’s response to my question about the secret to advertising was:

“Add your blog to your email signature, and tell others about it. Pass it around. I, and others, constantly link to blogs and posts that are interesting and informative. There's no real secret”

Here I was thinking there was some secret; some involved advertising process only known to bloggers but in the end advertising has actually been the easy part. Two years later I can honestly say Harlan’s advice was spot on.

Gauging Interest

Don’t get me wrong about my next comment. I truly appreciate all the feedback I have gotten over the last two years. The conversations in person, comments offline, and comments posted to jIIr. When you start blogging treat any feedback you get like gold. Feedback is the best way to get an idea about your blog’s content so cherish it when someone gives it to you. The reason is because the majority of blog readers don’t provide feedback. They don’t leave comments, send emails, or contact you using other means. Thinking about it I fall in the same boat. I follow over 300 blogs and my comment to read ratio is pretty low. For the first year blogging it felt as if I was talking to myself. I would keep posting different content but I didn’t get a lot of feedback. I wasn’t sure what content went over well and which ones as Harlan says “went over like a fart”. In these situations Google Analytics will be your friend. Google Analytics keeps stats about your site such as pageviews for each post and referrals to your blog. For the times when I don’t get feedback I can get a rough idea about the content people like by looking at the page views. However, some of my posts where I got great feedback were the same ones with low pageviews. Leverage Google Analytics as a tool to guage interest on your site but remember it is not fool-proof.


As I mentioned before blogging has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. It has required a lot of sacrifice but it has made me into a better DFIR practitioner. There are times when I felt as if I wasn’t adding value; times when I was flying high because my research and posts has helped others. Regardless of what happens when you blog, the most important advice I can give is to stay true to what motivated you to blog in the first place. If you are working towards accomplishing what you set out to do then the rest doesn’t matter. Enjoy the ride and remember to say thanks to those who give shout outs about your blog or provide feedback.
  1. Good advice Corey. Your note on frequency, makes me want to post more. I have been neglectful as of late.

  2. ...which ones as Harlan says “went over like a fart”.

    Ha! That's my entire blog at this point!

  3. Corey,

    I honestly think that you have set the bar, with a lot of your posts, particularly those regarding exploit artifacts. You've shown that someone with a blog and a question can do a great deal of good for the community, without ever having written a book, or doing any of those things that others throw up as obstacles. You have kids, as well.

  4. Hey Corey,
    Another great post! I wish I would have thought of it. Thanks for the kinds words. A couple comments:
    - I think we all think blogging is easy. It isn't. It's a lot of work, especially yours, as your posts run a lot longer than mine and require precise explanation. You do it well.
    - Motivation. I blog to give back to the community and I love to mentor others. Also, I blog because I want an easy way to find my stuff that I've done in the past. I've read older posts and reminded myself of a technique I haven't though about lately.
    - Frequency. I try to post once a week, but I'm usually twice a month. It's hard to find the time as posts often require research, testing, and rewrites. Easier to comment on someone's else's blog sometimes :)
    - You picked the wrong platform! I chose wordpress because I found it first. Someday I'll check blogger out, but once you're established, moving can be murder.
    - Blog Post Tips. I'd suggest that bloggers follow blogs about blogging. That's where I learned a lot of "how to blog effectively" stuff. And still learn it.
    - Advertising. Since my blog is anonymous (I have leaked my first name in a couple places), advertising is much harder. I can't put my URL in my email. So my readers have built up slowly, but Google is where I'm usually found, so doing a little SEO really helps.
    - Comments. Yes, it's a real bummer that most people don't comment. When I appreciate something, I always comment. But you're right, my prime motivation isn't kudos, it's giving back to the community because so many others have let me stand on their backs.
    - Idea hopper. I have so many posts partially written, I'll never run out of ideas. My problem is finding the time to do the research and writing. I often have finished posts waiting to be proofread one last time that sit for weeks.

    Again, great post Corey. New bloggers should take heed to your counsel. Thanks again for the mentions.

  5. @itauditsecurity

    Thanks for the comment with even more excellent advice and tips.

Post a Comment