Perimeter
7/30/2012
06:25 PM
Rich Mogull
Rich Mogull
Commentary
50%
50%

Black Hat's Future Is The Past

Black Hat has changed a lot over the years. Now, more than ever, we need it to stick to its roots

I still remember the first time I attended Black Hat. It was back when I was still working for Gartner, and at the time was considered a "rogue" conference that bordered on the illegal due to its occasional inclusion of former convicted hackers on the speaking agenda. Good, clean, white-collar analysts from Gartner most definitely weren't supposed to mingle with the underground, even those of us with hacker roots.

It took all of a nanosecond at the event to realize how wrong those characterizations were, and since then, Black Hat has become such a fixture on my annual calendar that even eighth cousins, thrice removed, know better than to try and schedule anything that week. Black Hat has grown into one of the most significant events in security: one that plays a nearly unique role in our industry by bridging the gap between enterprise security professionals and the researcher/hacker community.

But with this expansion comes the inevitable growing pains. After spending last week at Black Hat (and Def Con), I think the future of the conference will be a return to the core principles it was created for -- not, as my partner Mike Rothman suggests, a choice between focusing on the research or targeting CISOs. In my mind, it needs to do both.

(Mike and I may work together, but we don't censor at Securosis. We don't have any problem airing our dirty laundry in public and letting you decide who you agree with.)

Black Hat originally started as a way to bring the research of Def Con to enterprise and government IT security professionals. Not everyone can get approval to spend a weekend in Vegas at the world's biggest hacker conference, so founder Jeff Moss spun up a separate, related, event more-fitting a corporate and agency crowd. The core concept of Black Hat was to take the best of the research from the hacker community to the enterprise and government world. We have other enterprise security conferences, and other hacker cons, but Black Hat is one of the only to deliberately bridge these communities. (And yes, I know I'm being a bit idealistic here).

After spending last week at both events, it's clear a lot has changed. There's still some great research, but today's economics now drive some of the most important behind government, corporate, or criminal walls. More attendees are higher up on the corporate food chain, and the appeal isn't just to the front-line technical defenders. (We had 130 CISO in the Executive Briefing session I moderated the day before the main conference, with a substantial waiting list.) The vendor floor is an actual room, not a bunch of booths crammed into a crowded hallway. For the first time there was a defense track, which was often standing-room only, even in sessions where the technical content was weaker.

While Black Hat was originally established to bring offensive research to defenders, in many ways for much of its existence it was by researchers for researchers, with defenders as more of an afterthought there to pay the bills (at the Briefings at least, not the Trainings classes held beforehand). As the conference has grown, especially in the past few years, and garnered more corporate attention, the pressure is on to figure out exactly where it fits.

I agree with Mike that Black Hat sits at a crossroads. The audience is changing, the content is changing, and the world around it is changing. But while Mike (and he isn't alone) thinks the conference needs to focus more on researchers or directors and executives, I think the real opportunity is for Black Hat to return to its roots and serve first and foremost as a conduit to bring (mostly) hard-core offensive research to defensive security professionals and executives.

This is no easy task. The only way to pull it off is to continue to appeal to both those generating offensive research and the defenders. And to do so with intense technological depth that is also translated into terms mere humans can understand and use to make security decisions, without watering it down. To focus on the research first, not the "scene," but to do so in a way that is both respectful and appealing to the community that has sustained it for so long. Even to include vendors (on the show floor) but without having them fill their booths with marketeers instead of engineers.

Now, more than ever, we need a place where offensive and defensive researchers, corporate IT pros, government defenders, and CISOs can share the same halls and focus on the latest and best research, technology, and trends. That's why Black Hat first started, and I personally think that's where we need it to go.

Rich Mogull is is founder of Securosis LLC and a former security industry analyst for Gartner

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7421
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a module name in the salg_name field, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-9644.

CVE-2014-8160
Published: 2015-03-02
net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_proto_generic.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18 generates incorrect conntrack entries during handling of certain iptables rule sets for the SCTP, DCCP, GRE, and UDP-Lite protocols, which allows remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via packets with disall...

CVE-2014-9644
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a parenthesized module template expression in the salg_name field, as demonstrated by the vfat(aes) expression, a different vulnerability than CVE-201...

CVE-2015-0239
Published: 2015-03-02
The em_sysenter function in arch/x86/kvm/emulate.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5, when the guest OS lacks SYSENTER MSR initialization, allows guest OS users to gain guest OS privileges or cause a denial of service (guest OS crash) by triggering use of a 16-bit code segment for emulation of a SYS...

CVE-2014-8921
Published: 2015-03-01
The IBM Notes Traveler Companion application 1.0 and 1.1 before 201411010515 for Window Phone, as distributed in IBM Notes Traveler 9.0.1, does not properly restrict the number of executions of the automatic configuration option, which makes it easier for remote attackers to capture credentials by c...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.