Saturday 5 December 2015

Black Hat Europe 2015

For the past couple of years the Black Hat conference has offered scholarships to students entering the security industry. I was ecstatic to find out that I had been selected this year.

On the 11th November I boarded a flight from London Stansted to Amsterdam Schipol, After I took my seat I began to remember how much I had read about the Black Hat and Defcon conferences in Las Vegas. I felt excited to finally experience a conference of that calibre (albeit the European leg) and to finally experience the first (of what I fully intend to be many) Black Hat attendances.

I landed early in the morning on the day before the conference began, this enabled me to beat the crowds to collect my pass and the associated attendee paraphernalia and to get familiar with the conference grounds.

I got back my hotel room which was conveniently located opposite the conference centre, I pulled the conference agenda out of my very stylish attendee back pack and began to circle talks or 'briefings' that I wanted to attend. This was far more of a monumental task that I was anticipating.
I found myself quickly double booking myself, but none the less, I arrived at my first day itinerary.

The next morning arrived and I was ready for my minute and a half commute to the conference centre. With my Black Hat badge around my neck I made my way to a very well organised breakfast, in a dining area which would be more accurately described as a hangar than a hall - it was huge. The seats filled up and I got my first look at just how many people were attending the conference. Needless to say, it was enough to fill a dining hangar.

I eagerly ate breakfast and gave myself some buffer time to find the main conference hall for the Keynote. My navigation skills didn't fail me, I was among the first to take a seat (close to the front of course).

The Dark Tangent (Jeff Moss) took to the stage, he began by announcing some Black Hat statistics and mentioned the Scholarship Scheme, my student colleagues and I were asked to raise our hands and make ourselves known to other attendees, I dutifully obliged.
Jeff introduced the Keynote speaker - Haroon Meer and one of the best talks of the conference began. Haroon set the tone for the conference, which by my measure, was one of self reflection. I had often read and heard of the "hacking community", this was the first time I had experienced it. Haroon addressed the audience as colleagues, opening a discussion of the failings of the security industry and how we all need to do better. It may sound negative, but it definitely was not.

From here the briefings began! I could write for hours about each one - they were fascinating. But I feel a list coming on.

Day 1
  • Even he Last Pass Will be Stolen, Deal With it! - Martin Vigo and Albert Garcia
  • Stegosploit - Exploit Delivery with Steganography and Polyglots - Saumil Shah
  • OSxCollector - Kuba Sendor
  • Commix: Detecting and Exploiting Command Injection Flaws - Anastasios Stasinopoulos
Day 2
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: Advances in Malware Covert Communication Channels - Pierre-Marc Bureau and Christian Dietrich
  • Maintaining Ethics in Today's Cyber World - SecureAuth
  • VoIP Wars: Destroying Jar Jar Lync - Faith Ozaci
  • Self-Driving and Connected Cars: Fooling Sensors and Tracking Drivers - Jonathan Petit
  • Bypassing Local Windows Authentication to Defeat Full Disk Encryption - Ian Haken

The briefings were exceptional, what really stuck with me was the sense of community, there were plenty of questions and the speakers took allot of time to answer and speak with the audience, I felt a real sense of being among peers.
Outside of the briefings this atmosphere continued, Other attendees were more than happy to impart knowledge and shared in my enthusiasm.

The conference concluded with a Locknote in which Jeff informed us all that Black Hat Europe is to move from Amsterdam to London next year. It was said that the purpose of this move is to foster a similar social experience as the conference in Las Vegas. As if I wasn't already desperate to attend in 2016! 

The Black Hat Student Scholarship Scheme provided me with a wonderful experience and a valuable introduction to the community and industry, I am extremely grateful.