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Black Hat: The Phishing Scare That Wasn't

Email glitch causes concern among security pros attending major industry event, but ends with humor
About 7,500 security professionals scheduled to attend this week's Black Hat conference raised a howl yesterday when they received what looked like a phishing attack in their emailboxes.

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The email, which came from an address called ITN, was subject-lined "Your admin password" and suggested that the recipient had requested a password change. It then gave a URL to click, with no further information.

Such an email is the exact sort of attack that often happens at this time every year, when Black Hat attendees try to fool each other (and sometimes Black Hat management) into making an insecure move. But this particular phishing attempt seemed so obvious that it hardly seemed worthy of the more sophisticated tricks played in past years.

As it turns out, this phish wasn't a phish. According to a blog by Black Hat general manager Trey Ford, the email was sent out mistakenly by ITN, which actually is the contractor hired by Black Hat to handle registration at the conference.

"Hanlon's Razor states, 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity,'" Ford's blog begins. "We love to tease people that your systems need to be ready to hold their own if joining the Black Hat network. In this frame of mind, the community very correctly expected a prank or act of malice.

"The far more concerning thought would be how is ANYONE other than Black Hat emailing the registered delegates for the 2012 show?" the blog continues. "Some data is shared on a need-to-know basis with some key partners, one of which is ITN, which is handling our on-site registration and check-in systems at the show this year."

The blog goes on to explain that an overeager volunteer sent out a premature message using an overprivileged feature in a registration application.

"The email this morning was an abuse of functionality by a volunteer who has been spoken to," the blog states. "The feature has since been removed as a precautionary measure."

No compromise of the Black Hat database or attendee information has been detected, Ford reports.

"Does this mean we should submit a VERIS report?" Ford quipped.

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