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Top 10 Talks to See at Black Hat USA 2018

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The Black Hat USA security conference has an allure unlike no other cybersecurity event. Over the years, some of the most infamous and audacious security attacks and research have been announced at Black Hat, and the 2018 event looks like it will once again live up to the hype.

While a number of talks on exotic attacks will make national headlines, there are also talks that look at the human side of cybersecurity as well as the process of handling security management.

In this eSecurity Planet guide, we provide our picks for the top ten talks that IT pros shouldn't miss at Black Hat USA 2018.

Understanding Black Hat

Black Hat USA is made up of multiple tracks and events, including sponsored sessions, the arsenal tools demonstration area, the vendor exhibit hall, training, and the main event, which is the two-day briefings portion that runs Aug. 8-9 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

The top sessions that we included in this guide are all from the briefings component. We'll have another article this week looking at the top tools, and another on vendor news. Without further adieu, here are our picks for must-see briefings at the conference.

1. Detecting credential compromise in AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest cloud provider in the world, and as such is often a target of attackers. Multiple breaches in recent years have been attributed to attackers somehow gaining access to a company's cloud credentials.

Few organizations are as well versed in the cloud security challenges of deploying in AWS as media streaming company Netflix.

In a session on Aug. 8 at 10:30 a.m., William Bengtson, Senior Security Engineer at Netflix, is set to detail methods used by the streaming giant to detect compromised credentials in AWS.

2. Outsmarting the Smart City

Could a hacker or nation-state take over an entire city of smart devices? A team of researchers from IBM and ThreatCare will detail in a talk how insecure multiple types of smart city internet of things (IoT) devices actually are.

"In addition to discussing newly discovered pre-auth attacks against multiple smart city devices from different categories of smart city technology, this presentation will discuss methods for how to figure out what smart city tech a given city is using, the privacy implications of smart cities, the implications of successful attacks on smart city tech, and what the future of smart city tech may hold," the abstract for the talk states.

3. Last call for SATCOM security

Is it possible for an attacker to hack satellite communications and then get access to an aircraft? That's a question that IOactive security research Ruben Santamarta will answer in his Black Hat session.

"Some of the largest airlines in the U.S. and Europe had their entire fleets accessible from the Internet, exposing hundreds of in-flight aircraft," the session abstract states. "Sensitive NATO military bases in conflict zones were discovered through vulnerable SATCOM infrastructure."

4. Applied self-driving car security

Among the most infamous talks in recent years at Black Hat was one from researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek in 2015 detailing flaws in Chrysler cars, which led to the recall of millions of vehicles.

The two researchers are back for 2018, this time talking about security concerns for autonomous vehicles.

5. Are you trading stocks securely?

While there are plenty of ways to lose money in the stock market, one of them apparently could come by way of using an insecure stock trading application. Security researcher Alejandro Hernandez is set to detail multiple vulnerabilities in popular stock trading technologies.

"In this talk, vulnerabilities that affect millions of traders will be shown in detail," the session abstract states. "Among them are unencrypted authentication, communications, passwords and trading data; remote DoS that leave the applications useless, weak password policies, hardcoded secrets, poor session management, etc."

6. Mobile POS security

Mobile point of sales systems are everywhere and so too are the vulnerabilities. Positive Technologies researchers Leigh-Anne Galloway and Tim Yunosov will be talking about research they conducted into the security of mobile point of sales systems, detailing vulnerabilities as well as strategies for how organizations can limit risks.

 7.  TLBleed: When protecting your CPU caches is not enough

Among the biggest security vulnerabilities disclosed thus far in 2018 has been the meltdown and spectre CPU vulnerabilities that involve side channel attacks. At Black Hat USA 2018, Ben Gras, Security Researcher at Amsterdam's VU University, is set to detail a new form of Spectre side-channel attack that he has dubbed TLBleed.

"We present TLBleed, a novel side-channel attack that leaks information out of Translation Lookaside Buffers (TLBs)," the session abstract states. "TLBleed shows a reliable side channel without relying on the CPU data or instruction caches."

8. Understanding and exploiting implanted medical devices

While some security exploits can lead to financial loses, there is another more impactful type of attack that could potentially be a matter of life and death. Security researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts are set to detail issues in implanted medical devices.

"The presenters will provide detailed technical findings on remote exploitation of a pacemaker systems, pacemaker infrastructure, and a neurostimulator system," the session abstract states. "Exploitation of these vulnerabilities allow for the disruption of therapy as well as the ability to execute shocks to a patient."

9. Understanding cognitive stress in tactical cyber ops

Hacking can be a stressful job. Celeste Paul and Josiah Dykstra from the National Security Agency (NSA) are set to discuss the human impact of security operations. Among the high-level findings that the NSA researchers will reveal is that operations longer than 5 hours have 10 percent greater increases in fatigue and frustration compared to shorter operations.

10. Stop that release, there's a vulnerability!

While many of the Black Hat briefings deal with offensive security activities, Christine Gadsby, Director of BlackBerry's global Product Security Operations Team, will be talking about how security works in the software development lifecycle.

In her session, Gadsby is set to provide tips, tricks and templates for how IT managers can build a resilient system for identifying bugs in software before it ships.

Bonus: PWNIE Awards

No Black Hat USA preview is complete without at least a mention of the annual PWNIE Awards.

The PWNIEs are a somewhat sarcastic set of awards that are announced in a high-energy, comedy infused session, set to take place on Aug. 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Coming up: Vendors Making News at Black Hat USA 2018 and Top Tools Released at Black Hat USA 2018

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eSecurityPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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