The annual Black Hat Europe conference this year once again brought together numerous information security aficionados in Amsterdam for the latest training and security insights.
As in previous years, the agenda didn't disappoint, with dozens of sessions detailing the latest trends in malware, vulnerabilities, cybercrime, regulations and all things information security (see Hot Sessions: Black Hat 2015).
Here are some visual highlights from the conference:
All Roads Lead to Black Hat
Black Hat Europe was held at the Amsterdam RAI, a conference center located south of the city center. While the venue had good transportation links, it lacked the typical Black Hat vibe of having a vibrant surrounding neighborhood or abundance of nearby locations for attendees to mix, after hours.
Conference at a Glance
The conference briefings featured 63 speakers delivering 40 different sessions over a two-day period.
Launching Black Hat Europe
Black Hat founder Jeff Moss kicked off the conference briefings. All told, more than 1,500 attendees flocked to the conference, setting a Black Hat Europe record.
Self-Help for Security Pros
Thinkst founder Haroon Meer keynoted the conference - to a packed auditorium - with a presentation titled "What Got Us Here Won't Get Us There," riffing on the title of Marshall Goldsmith's business best-seller (see 5 Secrets to Security Success).
Bet on Black
The Black Hat brand continues to be going strong, 18 years after it was founded by Jeff Moss, who's now the conference chair of the Black Hat review board.
Memes to the Max
By and large, the Black Hat Europe briefings shared two things in common: live demonstrations of all flaws the researchers had found, and an abundance of slides starring kittens.
Second Try Perfect
But as is typical for a technology conference, not all of the live demonstrations succeeded the first time. The second time, however, was the charm for Ian Haken, a security researcher at software development product vendor Coverity, who demonstrated how the software-based BitLocker encryption feature built into Windows can be bypassed, receiving a round of applause from the audience in return. After receiving a pre-conference heads-up on the flaw from Haken, Microsoft earlier this month issued a related security update to patch the related flaw in all versions of Windows (see 5 Vulnerability Warnings).
The briefings featured not just detailed technical analyses and tear-downs of newly discovered flaws, but also the opportunity for cultural appreciation, for example in this talk about flaws in password management system LastPass - now patched - that were discovered by Spanish Salesforce.com engineers Martin Vigo and Alberto Garcia Illera.
The Black Hat Europe Business Hall featured more than 30 companies demonstrating their technologies and solutions, plus a networking lounge, career-seeking station and technology briefings.
Black Hat Europe Reception
The first day of briefings culminated in a reception - featuring Dutch Heineken beer on draught - in the Black Hat Europe Business Hall.
'Locknote' Closes Conference
The conference-ending "locknote" - as in the opposite to the kick-off keynote - featured Black Hat and DEF CON founder Jeff Moss, who's a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council; Cyphort malware analyst Marion Marschalek; independent security consultant Jennifer Savage; and Thinkst founder and conference keynoter Haroon Meer discussing some top takeaways from the conference.
All four, notably, are on one or more of the review boards that decide which researchers will present at each of the Black Hat conferences around the world. And one of the big surprises in recent years, they seemed to agree, was the fact that the safest approach to computing today now seems to be - in Meer's words - "a general-purpose computer in a walled garden talking to a proprietary Web service," meaning iOS devices.
Goodbye, Amsterdam RAI
The year ended on a slightly bittersweet note, however, as Moss reported that the conference - which decamped from the atmospheric Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in central Amsterdam two years ago, seeking more space - has now outgrown the RAI. Truth be told, the out-of-center venue also feels remote, and lacks the immediacy of the previous location.
Hence next year, Black Hat Europe will reconvene in early November in a to-be-disclosed London location that the organizers promise is both fun and plugged into a local neighborhood, thus offering more opportunities for attendees to mingle outside conference hours. And after London, they said, who knows where in Europe next?
(Photos: Mathew J. Schwartz)