DNSFilter's Director of Marketing, Serena Raymond, and Principal Threat Researcher, Peter Lowe, caught up in a fireside chat to discuss their different experiences and perspectives after their time at Black Hat this year. We've put together the highlights below.
In this Black Hat fireside chat, Serena and Peter shared their thoughts about the coolest parts, what was most effective, and their most important takeaways from the Vegas trip.
Picture the set of The Hangover...
Just kidding, it wasn't quite that wild of a time!
Serena was most impressed by the 8th Annual USA Black Hat NOC report, detailing how the lead team of the NOC (Network Operations Center) at Black Hat setup for the conference.
“The way they described it was they replaced everything in Mandalay (the hotel where Black Hat was being held) except for the wires and the walls. They took out the switches, set up routers, they were powering ten-thousand devices and they set up visualizations and dashboards…”
They also streamed it live on Twitch! To sum up, the NOC report is an in depth look at how Black Hat is run and what goes on behind the scenes of every conference. It’s a pretty cool look at not just the technical aspects, but also for those with a passion for the production side of things.
The Innovation Spotlight stoked Peter's interest. The Innovation Spotlight allows for cybersecurity start-ups to present their products. It also fosters more 1-to-1 connections and offers smaller talks about incredibly interesting topics.
“As the wide-eyed newbie who is going to his first Black Hat, my main takeaway was just the range of different things that we got to experience there.” Peter used his first experience at Black Hat this year as a signpost for future events, finding the things he liked most or found the most useful so he can maximize his conference experience next time.
Peter’s main takeaways? Come prepared, prioritize the events you want to see the most, and learn what you want to focus on the next time you attend.
While there was a great opportunity to talk about the ups and downs, the sheer quantity of possible events to attend and the interpersonal connections, the event also had some eyebrow raising moments that could make you stop and think.
Serena explains that there were a lot of claims this year offering 100% protection services against security threats, or a ‘silver bullet’ to stop all incoming cybersecurity threats.
“It’s really risky from a vendor perspective, but also from the person that’s buying that security. I don’t think any vendor can make claims like that, especially when we exist in a security ecosystem.”
Peter references a Linkedin video from DNSFilter’s Mikey Pruitt about how to truly secure a mobile device and make sure it isn’t vulnerable to attack.
“In the video, he picked up his [mobile] device and threw it in a lake, and I think that is basically the only way you can” Peter chuckles. “Other than that, there’s no silver bullet”.
Peter and Serena discuss the irony of some of these security claims during a massive conference of Cybersecurity professionals. “It’s not just a security conference, it’s a hacker conference.”
In summary, cybersecurity experts and hackers would know better than anyone, and when you gather thousands of them together they’ll probably tell you the same thing: There is no perfect “catch all” solution to cybersecurity threats. The environment is constantly changing and evolving. There will always be new threats and there will always be new ways to defend against them.
The DNSFilter Duo also touch on this year's event being the first time that a journalist - Investigative Journalist Kim Zetter - gave a Keynote speech at Black Hat. “Talking about relationships between security vendors, hackers, and the media - journalism - and the shift over the last 25 years.”
They go on to discuss the direction of Black Hat and cybersecurity over the last quarter century. With more vendors, more companies, and even more sales being involved in the conference, Serena and Peter both agree it has a more corporate feel than ever before.
“As tech has grown so much, I think journalism and cybersecurity go way more hand-in-hand than they ever did before.”
Peter asks: “How do you think the representation was for women at the conference?”
Serena: “I only went to so many briefings, but I thought it was pretty good.” Including Kim Zetter’s keynote speech “Pre-Stuxnet, Post-Stuxnet: Everything Has Changed, Nothing Has Changed” which highlights supply chain attacks and cyberwarfare over the last 25 years from the perspective of a journalist.
Serena also mentions another session that questioned why responses to cyber attacks aren’t more like responses to airplane crashes, hosted by women.
“I did see a lot of women represented in the business hall from other companies and met a lot of other women who work in Cybersecurity, which is great!”
“From your perspective as a marketing professional, our Director of marketing… How would you rate the overall swag and presence of different companies?”
Peter asks Serena for her thoughts on the marketing campaigns she witnessed at Black Hat.
“Overall there were some companies I was very impressed by,” she says, and explains that there were some great ideas to get the creative juices flowing for other marketers out there. “We saw a lot of really interesting creative activities at the booths, giveaways.”
Serena also refers to the gear and swag given away by companies during the event and jokes with Peter how some were far too large to take home with them on a plane.
A note for future campaigners perhaps? Consider how much space your swag takes up in a suitcase!
The crazy amount of walking took both Serena and Peter by surprise. Because of the size of the conference and the multitude of panels, speeches, presentations and events, Peter estimates he walked upwards of 10 miles (16 kilometers) daily.
“I think the best piece of ‘swag’ that will bring people to your booth are insoles, branded insoles, because wow were my feet aching by the end of the day.” Okay Peter, you might be onto something here!
Down with paper maps? “I was actually impressed that we didn’t get a physical map.” Serena mentions after discussing the sheer amount of space the conference covered and how she had to plan her route for each day. Though it wasn’t necessarily a good thing, Peter even brought a highlighter and was disappointed he didn’t get a map to mark up.
“There were few companies that specialized in DNS security,” Peter notes. “That particular area was not as well represented as I had hoped.” Highlighting a great opportunity for DNSFilter to fill some of that void at future events.
“It’s something on our minds all the time, we live it, but for anyone outside of our DNSFilter bubble, we might need to put out a reminder on how it works and how it is a security vulnerability when it’s unprotected,” Serena reminds us. Psst... Learn more about that right here.
At the end of the conversation, Serena and Peter’s messages are united on one front: There’s a lot to do, a lot to take in (both mentally and free gear), so come prepared! Cybersecurity threats will be continuous and ever-evolving so there will always be new topics and state of the art defenses coming out.
Oh one more thing, if you didn’t visit us this time at DNSFilter’s Black Hat booth, Serena would like to remind you that “DNSFilter will be back at Black Hat USA, 2023, so stay tuned for more details.” On that note, we’ll see you next time!