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The Must-Watch List for Black Hat 2020

By Mark Davis

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Now in its 23rd year, Black Hat USA is a leading global information security event, providing attendees with the very latest security research, development and trends. Fullstack Cyber Bootcamp’s Managing Director, Mark Davis, is sharing his “can’t miss” recommendations for what to catch at this year’s conference.

Stress-Testing Democracy: Election Integrity During a Global Pandemic (Matt Blaze)

Why watch? “Black Hat keynotes are a big deal (they usually fill out a large arena). The Voting Village usually happens at DEFCON, and it almost always makes news. Co-run by Matt Blaze, this year he takes the big stage at Black Hat. This talk is especially important to get a preview of what might happen in the upcoming presidential election.”

Talk description: Technologists have long warned that much of the technology and infrastructure we depend on for voting suffers from exploitable vulnerabilities that could be used to cast doubt on the integrity of elections. Those problems are extremely challenging under normal circumstances, but a global pandemic adds a new dimension to the mix: protecting the health of voters and election workers. How do we securely and robustly scale up safer, broadly accessible voting mechanisms between now and November? This talk will explore the challenges - technological, logistical, and political - of keeping our elections running during a crisis.

Election Security: Securing America's Future (Christopher Krebs)

Why watch? “After hearing from Matt Blaze in the previous session, you’ll have heard some election predictions from the head of Voting Village. Now hear what top governmental official Chris Krebs (first director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) has to say about it.”

Talk description: The United States Government is intensely focused on election security and is working together with election partners better than ever before. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is leading the federal effort to support state and local officials in their important mission to secure elections in 2020. We are sharing intelligence, resources, support and cybersecurity services to secure election infrastructure against malicious activity.

Since 2017, federal, state, local and private sector partners have been building up our defenses and preparing for the 2020 elections. We know this election will be a target and the bad guys are still out there, but we are trained, exercised and ready.

While preparing for the threats that we knew about, our nation has been confronting another threat in the form of a pandemic. This has forced election officials to make quick operational decisions determining how to run elections in the time of COVID-19. We have had to quickly adapt and provide support and resources as officials look for safe, healthy and secure ways to ensure that elections continue to take place.

We Went to Iowa and All We Got Were These Felony Arrest Records

Why watch? “This engagement was widely covered in the press this year. Now you can hear the pen testers’ side of the story.”

Talk description: In-depth discussion and review of the red team engagement of Iowa courthouses which resulted in an unprecedented outcome. Gary and Justin will take you through the engagement, arrest, and ensuing legal battle, and wrap up with lessons learned and how the community can benefit.

Hacking Public Opinion (Renée DiResta)

Why watch? “Renée DiResta’s talk is the other Black Hat keynote this year, and I highly recommend checking it out. It’s another election-themed talk focusing on disinformation campaigns from nation-state actors, and how they can play tricks on our minds as they seek to divide the country and undermine our democracy."

Talk description: Online disinformation has reached fever pitch: grifters pushing fake cures for COVID-19, nation states spinning pandemic conspiracies, domestic ideologues coordinating to push manipulative videos about presidential candidates. Malign actors are finding and exploiting divisions in our society using vulnerabilities in our information ecosystem. The flood of conflicting messages is overwhelming individuals and manipulating communities - and social networks are struggling to keep up.

Information operations aren’t new; they are conducted within the confines of the information environment at the actor’s disposal and evolve along with technology and media infrastructure. The rules are determined by the infrastructure – in this case, the features and algorithms of social platforms. The most sophisticated players -- nation states -- leverage not only social networks but network infiltration to influence, distract, and manipulate large communities of people.

This talk offers an overview of the mechanics of modern-day information operations. Using a deep dive into the tactics behind some of the most impactful recent operations, the speaker will demonstrate the ways in which hacking the information environment is similar and different from the kind of intrusions the audience normally deals with. We will conclude with a look ahead to the 2020 elections and a call-to-action for the audience to deploy their skills in the defense of democracy.

If you aren’t able to make it to Black Hat this year, you can still learn more about the current state of cybersecurity through our free Hacking 101 video series.

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