Intrepidus Group

Zach’s 2010 BlackHat/DEFCON/B-Sides Las Vegas summary

Posted: August 5, 2010 – 10:10 am | Author: | Filed under: Conferences, Humor, Techno | Tags: , , ,

I was aiming not to be the last contributor to this series, given that I’ve already received my proper lashings for slagging on posts as is. But, here’s my attempt at summarizing my experience in Las Vegas for BlackHat USA 2010, DEFCON 18, and the second Security B-Sides Las Vegas. I’ll scribble here what I can actually remember amidst the scorching blaze that is Vegas during the day, and the tiring, mind-scrambling, party-filled nights.


I actually caught the “System DNS Vulnerabilties and Risk Management” panel during the first day of BlackHat. Admittedly, I was expecting something beyond trumpeting about DNSSEC, though that’s…effectively…what the description of the panel was. *sigh* Anyway, the panelists explained the progress made with DNSSEC, explained some of the timelines for signing additional TLDs, what [we] should be on the lookout for, and even took a few good questions. One of the more intriguing inquiries from the audience was centered around emulating root nameservers in a completely isolated test lab. I wish I could recall what the exact response was, but that was right at the tail end of the panel and people were shuffling out. All-in-all, ‘okay’ session. (Really, though <fanboi> I just wanted to hear more from Whitfield Diffie </fanboi>.)

I also attended “These Aren’t the Permission You’re Looking For”, presented by my pal Anthony Lineberry, and his cohorts at Lookout, David Luke Richardson and Tim Wyatt. As someone who spends quite a bit of time on the Android platform, this session piqued my interest. I expected the usual rigmarole, introduce Android, the security model, how permissions work, message passing, etc., and I was on target. That part of the talk was very familiar to me, so I nodded along in step. Eventually, the talk shifted gears, discussing how applications can sidestep requesting certain permissions (such as fine-grained / GPS location data) simply by scraping those data from the logs, which requires only asking for the READ_LOGS permission (as my colleague, Corey, said in a previous blog post). Additionally, they discussed a means of exfiltrating certain data with zero permissions — by simply invoking the web browser (via an Intent), pointing to an attacker controlled web server, and sending device information and, in a few special cases, location data (IIRC, this was due to an issue in a third-party app).

The third, and final, talk I attended at Black Hat was “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: Semi-Auto Vulnerability Research” by Lurene Grenier (a.k.a. “pusscat”) and Richard Johnson. While certainly a bit dry to most of the audience (and even to me in a few spots), I was pretty excited about the concepts presented. The presenters basically laid out a workflow for finding, logging, archiving, and triaging bugs, and re-evaluating previously discovered bugs — constantly (in fact, one of the ideas presented was “constantly fuzzing”). Much emphasis was given to post-processing of bugs discovered during, say, the fuzzing process. Richard Johnson also presented a set of tools, including one called  “MoFlow” (IIRC, and that actually may have been the collective name), to help assist this process. Pusscat also showed off, briefly, a snapshot of a web interface that controlled and monitored distributed fuzzing/test processes. Cool stuff.

Security B-Sides Las Vegas

I didn’t actually attend the second day of BlackHat, but instead headed over to 2810 East Quail Ave., where lies a beautiful estate (with a gajillion [yes, a gajillion] pools). It also happened to be the venue for Security B-Sides Las Vegas. Surrounded by a ton of familiar faces, food, beer, and other refreshments, I chilled out for a bit before giving my own presentation, “It Melts In Your Hand: An Overview of Security (Failures) In Mobile Applications”. Through the nebulous haze of sleep deprivation, I managed to pull it off well enough (I think), and even answered some questions in a mildly coherent manner. After that, it was back to Caesars Palace to prepare for the Security Twits party.


Admittedly, my colleagues have done a better job of summarizing DEFCON than I can at this point. I spent most of my time in the “hallway track”, chatting up friends, old and new, about a myriad of things, ranging from hacking to Club Mate (blah). Also, I spent an inordinate amount of time getting my butt kicked in the Ninja Networks badge “game”. Notice I’m still a Level 1.

Quine's Ninja Badge

On the final day of DEFCON, I did manage to attend a panel about…wait for it…PCI. Yes. A PCI panel at DEFCON. And wouldn’t ya know it, it was packed. The panelists focused mainly on the pain points of PCI, the numerous misinterpretations and sheer laziness by merchants and service providers, and how we can all hope to effect change. Incidentally, the Q&A session following the panel, while in a smaller room (still packed, of course) was even more emotionally charged and powerful than the panel itself.

Here’s to more hax, more partying, and maybe even a bit of recovery.

Zach at the Adobe Haters Ball (photo by Stephen Ridley)

Zach at the Adobe Haters Ball (photo by Stephen Ridley)

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