Hacking Conventions. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

The Buzz Was Back At Black Hat And DEF CON 2021

Highlights and videos from the Las Vegas hacking conventions

David Braue

Melbourne, Australia – Aug. 27, 2021

The fast-changing COVID situation means nobody knows what the pandemic will look like next year — but that didn’t stop this year’s Black Hat 2021 and DEF CON 2021 security conferences from taking advantage of the here and now, providing long-absent opportunities to connect with colleagues and industry figures in the real world.

Black Hat USA 2021, which was held from July 31 to August 5, both online and at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, provided a broad range of content spanning training, presentations, briefings, vendor and partner meetings, and demonstrations of live hacks like one old-school effort to break automotive security.

The show was filled with “amazing” energy, NightDragon founder and managing director Dave DeWalt told Cybercrime Magazine, “the crowd is pretty good, with a lot happening here at the show.”

We dropped in on a host of vendors hanging out their shingles to highlight the latest and greatest in cybersecurity.

On hand were companies like Human Security, which has found a niche protecting companies against “sophisticated bot attacks,” CMO Dan Lowden said, adding that the company is screening 10 trillion transactions per week to protect “some of the largest internet platforms, e-commerce companies and financial services companies, where they’re being attacked by all these sophisticated bots that are impacting their business.”

Lockheed Martin brought its A-game to the show floor, installing its Challenge Box — a 14’ by 14’ box used as a recruiting tool in the midst of one of the largest concentrations of cyber talent anywhere.

Joining the exhibition were stalwarts like managed detection and response firms eSentire and SentinelOne, email security firm Mimecast and next-generation SIEM vendor Devo, identity security firm Ping Identity, and others.

Many attendees dropped in to hear more about offerings from API security innovator Noname Security.

“The idea was to create one platform that collects all of your APIs, monitor and analyze them, learn your API behavior and give you real-life insight regarding what you need to do and how you need to solve it,” said vice president of product Hila Zigman-Zinshtein.

DEF CON 2021

Black Hat 2021 was a reunion of sorts for many hackers, many of whom had also gathered at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for the DEF CON 2021 conference from August 5 to 8.

Like Black Hat, DEF CON was embracing the “new normal,” with a joint virtual/physical program to cater for all situations and a flood of new hacks highlighting ways to cyberattack the world using everything from AI-based scalable spear phishing to RFID-based attendance systems and denial-of-shopping attacks.

Cybercrime Magazine was on the floor at DEF CON, where snaking cables, and jerry-rigged black boxes were strewn across tables as attendees dipped into demonstrations about cracking ATMs, hacking building automation systems, deceiving surveillance cameras, building sonic weapons, and many of the other challenges that inquisitive hackers set themselves during the pandemic isolation.

Even the conference badge was tricked up, featuring four programmable buttons and sliders and instructions for hackers who wanted to reprogram the minute devices for all sorts of new uses.

For a hacker community that has been starved of physical contact, the two conferences’ return to the real world was a welcome opportunity for some catching up and a large-scale show-and-tell as attendees demonstrated what they had been up to while in lockdown.

Throw in some of the industry’s most interesting established and fast-growing companies, and it was clear that the buzz was back — hopefully for good.

“Some of the most important companies in the world to the peace of this planet are sitting right here,” said DeWalt. “it’s a pretty interesting climate, because cybersecurity is more important than ever before.”

David Braue is an award-winning technology writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

Go here to read all of David’s Cybercrime Magazine articles.