Black Hat, BSides, Def Con: Defenders, Take Note

Summer security conferences include defense-related topics on top of the usual offensive fare

John H. Sawyer, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading

July 24, 2012

3 Min Read

This is one of the most important weeks for the information security industry. Two, arguably three, of the most-attended, information-rich, and well-known security conferences in the world take place in Las Vegas: Black Hat, Def Con, and BSidesLV. I'm a fan of all three because they provide an incredible resource for both networking with others within the security industry and an opportunity to see some of the newest cutting-edge research being presented. Even better, if you see something that you really like in a presentation and want to learn more, it's not hard to meet up with one of the speakers, buy him or her a drink, and pick his or her brain.

Of note, I appreciate the diversity of topics at these conferences. Presentations and training being offered cover everything including penetration testing, hardware exploitation, social engineering, code review, incident response, and forensics. One thing I noticed about this year's Black Hat lineup is a higher percentage of talks that are either specifically focused on defense or have an offensive focus that includes defensive mitigations for the attacks they are demonstrating. It's an interesting shift considering the offensive nature of the conference.

Now, I understand that traditionally these conferences are specifically focused on attacks and exploitation. As a penetration tester, I think that's great. I can take back lots of awesome information and use it in my work to break into clients' networks, websites, etc. What's commonly missing from these presentations, however, is how to defend against the attacks. Or, if defense is mentioned, it's incredibly brief because it's just not as exciting to most people. The problem is that breaking things is easy. It's the defensive role of trying to keep a network secure and prevent users from doing bad (or stupid) things that is much, much harder.

Looking at the three conferences, BSidesLV has just a few defense-focused presentations, DefCon has about 10, and Black Hat has more than a dozen. I'm basing those numbers on looking at the titles and descriptions of the talks, so the numbers may actually be higher if some of the presenters are including defensive mitigation but did not mention it in the event description.

Black Hat Briefings:

  • Looking into the Eye of the Meter

  • ModSecurity as Universal Cross- platform Web Protection Tool

  • libinjection: A C library for SQLi detection and generation through lexical analysis of real world attacks

  • STIX: The Structured Threat Information eXpression

  • Owning Bad Guys {and Mafia} with Javascript Botnets

  • SexyDefense: Maximizing the Home-Field Advantage

  • File Disinfection Framework: Striking Back at Polymorphic Viruses

  • The Defense RESTs: Automation and APIs for Improving Security

  • Intrusion Detection Along the Kill Chain: Why your Detection System Sucks and What to Do About it

  • Exploit Mitigation Improvements in Windows 8

  • Catching Insider Data Theft With Stochastic Forensics

  • Find Me in Your Database: An Examination of Index Security

  • Dex Education: Practicing Safe Dex

  • Clonewise: Automated Package Clone Detection

  • Targeted Intrusion Remediation: Lessons From The Front Lines

  • Mobile Network Forensics


  • Ambush - Catching Intruders At Any Point

  • Max Level Web App Security

  • Sexy Defense

Def Con:

  • Demorpheus: Getting Rid Of Polymorphic Shellcodes In Your Network

  • DDoS Black and White "Kungfu" Revealed

  • OPFOR 4Ever

  • Network Anti-Reconnaissance: Messing with Nmap Through Smoke and Mirrors

  • Embedded Device Firmware Vulnerability Hunting Using FRAK, the Firmware Reverse Analysis Konsole

  • Tenacious Diggity: Skinny Dippin' in a Sea of Bing

  • Detecting Reflective Injection

  • No More Hooks: Detection of Code Integrity Attacks

Dark Reading is providing constant coverage of these conferences before, during, and after. Keep up with news and blogs here.

John Sawyer is a Senior Security Analyst with InGuardians, Inc. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent those of his employer. He can be reached at [email protected] and found on Twitter @johnhsawyer.

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John H. Sawyer

Contributing Writer, Dark Reading

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