Internet warriors hone skills at Black Hat - DefCon

Internet warriors are gathering this week to explore chinks in the armors of computers, bank teller machines, mobile phones, power grids, and other "smart" devices intrinsic to modern life.

Black Hat USA kicks off in Las Vegas on Wednesday with briefings at which security professionals from technology firms including Microsoft and Cisco will dissect ways to safeguard or foil computers.

Black Hat segues on Friday into DefCon, an infamous annual assembly of hackers that pride themselves on finding ways around computer defenses.

Attendance at the events overlaps, with security professionals and software rogues sharing insights in an irreverent setting that has become a recruiting ground for US law enforcement agencies.

"Black Hat is a place where security researchers go to show off their work and get peer feedback," said Jeff Moss, who founded and runs both gatherings.

"DefCon is the fun stuff they don't have time to do in their day jobs."

The packed roster of topics at Black Hat will include hacks that make automated teller machines spew cash and the vulnerability of nuclear power plants, chemical factories and other online systems.

Hot trends are expected to include vulnerabilities of smartphones along with how hackers, and the crime fighters trying to catch them, are adapting to programs hosted as services in the Internet "cloud."

"There is a continuing focus on ways the current Web works and how to attack that," said Moss, whose hacker name is Dark Tangent. "Smartphones are a big target."

Attacks aimed at Internet browsers continue to grow as more aspects of people's lives go online.

Hackers are hiding malicious viruses in mini-applications, videos and other files to take advantage of the trust with which people share and download digital content.

Tracks focused on cyber war, government technology policy, and organized crime have been added this year.

A "Chinese Cyber-army" presentation by the chief technology officer of Taiwan-based Armorize Technologies was yanked by the company, reportedly due to concerns it would anger Chinese officials.

"That is a shame, because they had real numbers and these guys were going to really frame the size of the problem," Moss said of the canceled presentation of data about China-backed hacking during the past decade.

"This is the environment we are all living in. We'd better have our eyes open."

DefCon is "an order of magnitude cheaper" than Black Hat and notoriously attracts the kinds of basement-dwelling computer savants portrayed as quirky geeks in Hollywood films.

DefCon's array of activities includes a lock picking village and a "capture the flag" contest to see who can break into a computer network and fend off rivals.

A "social engineering" contest will challenge contestants to prove how adept they are at telephoning people at companies and talking them into revealing information that hackers could use to crack networks.

"There is a lot of voodoo and mysticism around social engineering," Moss said. "We are trying to clarify what works and what doesn't."

DefCon talks this year target the gamut of computerized gadgets and some unusual sessions, such one about how to "hack your own body."

"We like DefCon because it is a great forum for the right people," said lock-busting expert Marc Tobias, who will show how top locks from a set of well-known companies can be popped in seconds.

"Fingerprint locks, electromagnetic locks... all these guys are winning all kinds of awards and nobody wants to admit that Egyptian locks from four hundred years ago are more secure. Clever doesn't mean secure."

Lock picking has natural appeal in the world of hackers, since getting hold of a computer can make it easier to break into the machine.

Even DefCon badges keep with the theme, bearing computer circuitry that can be turned into radios, light message boards or other gadgets by hackers clever enough to bend the hardware to their wills.

So many national security officials speak or recruit at DefCon that the traditional game of "Spot the Fed" has been modified so that only hackers spotting a cop with a badge and actual arrest authority can win a T-shirt.

Black Hat attendance is up 35 percent this year and DefCon, which doesn't register people in advance, is expected to reflect a similar rise.

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

    Ashdown Group: SQL DBA - Croydon - up to £65,000

    £58000 - £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA - Bromley, South East London...

    Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat