Unearth Technologies attended the Black Hat USA 2013 Conference held at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV.
The Black Hat Conference experience is quite unique and one of the well-know on the annual security conference calendar; not just from the sheer size of the event, but it’s unique and diverse range of participants (e.g. security-professionals, hackers and academics) and presenters which included:
- 110 briefings and workshops
- 94+ hours of high-intensity research and vulnerability disclosures
- 49 live on-stage demonstrations
- 35 Zero Days to be released by more than 180+ of Black Hats best and brightest
- Keynote Speakers included General Keith Alexander, Director, NSA and Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; and Brian Muirhead, Chief Engineer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Security is always a sensitive and hot topic, and there were a number of headlines during 2013 that made for an interesting vibe to Black Hat this year, including:
- Mandiant Exposes APT1 – which put a magnifying glass on how the US Government supported cyber espionage and international collaboration.
- Chinese hackers infiltrated The New York Times’s computer systems – where New York Times had reported that for the last four months (NYT believed the hackers gained access around the 13th of September 2012), and the Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times since, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.
- South Korean banks and broadcasters paralysed by hackers – The computer networks of three South Korean broadcasters and at least two banks were “paralysed” in what appeared to be a coordinated cyber attack.
- President Obama signed Executive Order on Cybersecurity / Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, which was soon called into question the National Security Agency’s PRISM (surveillance) program, as a result of the media releasing articles such as “NSA paid millions to cover PRISM compliance costs for tech companies“.
With headlines during 2013 like this, having General Keith Alexander, the Director of the NSA and Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command as the first keynote speaker of the conference made for an interesting a completely packed first session for 2013 Black Hat. You could feel the tension, skepticism and emotion in the room; which was soon followed by heckling. It was definitely a tough audience for the General, as he presented and defended the NSA’s surveillance tactics, and there was plenty of passionate discussion and debate after his presentation. Draw your own conclusions of his presentation.
The number of insightful sessions was overwhelming and at time the choice was difficult, which meant the Unearth Team had to split up so we could cover as many sessions as possible. The sessions tended to be a bit hit and miss… the not so good sessions quickly thinned as people would leave quickly to head to another session… though those good sessions meant you often felt like a sardine squashed standing in the back of a room. There were nearly 7,500 attendees at Black Hat this year.
Black Hat really is a unique experience with the opportunity get a better understanding of motivations, techniques, research, recent projects and importantly… risks associated to cyber security. It is also an opportunity to learn, network, and conduct skill building.
The Black Hat Briefings have become one of the biggest and the most important security conference series in the world by sticking to their core value: serving the information security community by delivering timely, actionable security information in a friendly, vendor-neutral environment.
Attending a conference like Black Hat does have you walking away feeling challenged by what appears to be a losing battle in securing information.
So what do you do after attending an intense conference like Black Hat… you stay and attend DEF CON!