Black Hat USA 2022: Key Highlights

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Arriving at the keynote hall for Black Hat 2022, I was immediately struck by the size of the crowd – after the seemingly endless pandemic hiatus, the cyber industry had come out in force.  The mood was one of enthusiasm, and the entire place reverberated with the vibrancy of reunion. It was a great event for the industry – and for HelpSystems – and a few things stuck out.

25 Years of Black Hat

This being the 25th year for Black Hat, founder Jeff Moss spoke about its beginnings, and as with many successful ventures, it began with a strong personal network. He contacted his friends in the industry to join as speakers, building the conference session by session. And part of the Black Hat success story proves that you have to stay alert for good ideas, even if they come up casually. The original name for the event was going to be something like “Network Security Conference,” but one day his marketing director walked up and said “That’s boring. You should call it Black Hat. That sounds scary,” and walked away. And, voila! – Black Hat was born!

The Business Hall and Keynotes

Keynote speaker Chris Krebs recounted details about his time as the Director of CISA, and what he and others see happening in cyber today. Encouragingly, given the cyber workforce shortage, he sees new workers making the workforce younger and more tech-savvy, which is leading to enhanced productivity. But, on a darker note, he said his contacts in national security believe that escalating tensions between China and Taiwan mean it isn’t a question of if a full clash will occur, but when. This clearly has implications for cybersecurity, as cyberwarfare is likely to be a key part of the conflict.

The business hall was crowded with companies from industry leaders to new entrants, and it was hopping! Digital Guardian, Terranova, and Tripwire all attended, and the air was alive with discussions from data protection, to infrastructure protection, to who has the next “best thing”. A significant part of the focus was on integration and offering more complete solutions, although there were plenty of new and niche products in other parts of the hall. And it’s always interesting to see vendors’ tactics for attracting people to enter to their booth. One company had a boxing ring, and there were multiple “robots” in attendance.  However, a clear favorite “gimmick” was the booth set up as a local candy store.

In Thursday’s keynote, Kim Zetter spoke about vulnerabilities pre and post-Stuxnet, commenting that the industry changed after that event: Offensive tools became available and more widely used, threats have become larger, and attacks more frequent. Vulnerabilities and questionable practices within critical infrastructure still remain, and it’s not hard to expect more events like the one that shut down Colonial Pipeline.

The second day in the business hall was even busier, with a great crowd and interesting discussions. Tripwire customers came through the booth to hear what’s new, and prospective customers described plans to increase their cyber ecosystem and add capability.  Overall, everyone seemed delighted to be back in the bustle of a major event.  If the messages of both keynotes are true, the tech-savvy workforce using the newest defensive tools will be exactly what the cybersecurity profession needs to stay ahead of emerging threats.  As the conference was winding down, it was clear that all the attendees were looking forward to Black Hat 2023.  We hope to see you there.

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