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Mini Black Hat/Defcon 17 recap

By Adrian Lane

At Black Hat/Defcon, Rich and I are always convinced we are going to be completely hacked if we use any connection anywhere in Las Vegas. Heck, I am pretty sure someone was fuzzing my BlackBerry even though I had Bluetooth, WiFi, and every other function locked down. It’s too freakin’ dangerous, and as we were too busy to get back to the hotel for the EVDO card, neither Rich or I posted anything last week during the conference. So it’s time for a mini BH/Defcon recap.

As always, Bruce Schneier gave a thought provoking presentation on how the brain conceptualizes security, and Dan Kaminsky clearly did a monstrous amount of research for his presentation on certificate issuance and trust. Given my suspicion my phone might have been hacked, I probably should have attended more of the presentations on mobile security. But when it comes down to it, I’m glad I went over and saw “Clobbering the Cloud” by the team at Sensepost. I thought their presentation was the best all week, as it went over some very basic and practical attacks against Amazon EC2, both the system itself and its trust relationships. Those of you who were in the room in the first 15 minutes and left missed the best part where Haroon Meer demonstrated how to put a rogue machine up and escalate its popularity. They went over many different ways to identify vulnerabilities, fake out the payment system, escalate visibility/popularity, and abuse the identity tokens tied to the virtual machines. In the latter case, it looks like you could use this exploit to run machines without getting charged, or possibly copy someone else’s machine and run it as a fake version. I think I am going to start reading their blog on a more regular basis.

Honorable mention would have to be Rsnake and Jabra’s presentation on how browsers leak data. A lot of the examples are leaks I assumed were possible, but it is nonetheless shocking to see your worst fears regarding browser privacy demonstrated right in front of your eyes. Detecting if your browser is in a VM, and if so, which one. Reverse engineering Tor traffic. Using leaked data to compromise your online account(s) and leave landmines waiting for your return. Following that up with a more targeted attack. It shows not only specific exploits, but how when bundled together they comprise a very powerful way to completely hack someone. I felt bad because there were only 45 or so people in the hall, as I guess the Matasano team was supposed to present but canceled at the last minute. Anyway, if they post the presentation on the Black Hat site, watch it. This should dispel any illusions you had about your privacy and, should someone have interest in compromising your computer, your security.

Last year I thought it really rocked, but this year I was a little disappointed in some of the presentations I saw at Defcon. The mobile hacking presentations had some interesting content, and I laughed my ass off with the Def Jam 2 Security Fail panel (Rsnake, Mycurial, Dave Mortman, Larry Pesce, Dave Maynor, Rich Mogull, and Proxy-Squirrel). Other than that, content was kind of flat. I will assume a lot of the great presentations were the ones I did not select … or were on the second day … or maybe I was hung over. Who knows. I might have seen a couple more if I could have moved around the hallways, but human gridlock and the Defcon Goon who did his Howie Long impersonation on me prevented that from happening. I am going to stick around for both days next year.

All in all I had a great time. I got to catch up with 50+ friends, and meet people whose blogs I have been reading for a long time, like Dave Lewis and Paul Asadoorian. How cool is that?!

Oh, and I hate graffiti, but I have to give it up for whomever wrote ‘Epic Fail’ on Charo’s picture in the garage elevator at the Riviera. I laughed halfway to the airport.

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