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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
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: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Consultant / 1st Line Support

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As your knowledge grows you wil...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support and Sales Engineer - UC / M2M / IoT

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Cloud ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living