The British Way
What, Where & When: the 4th edition of 44CON, an annual IT Security Conference organized by Sense/Net Ltd, took place on 10-12 September in London, at a venue near the Earl’s Court exhibition center. Geeks, who happened to enjoy somewhat spooky historical monuments, could take a five minute walk from the venue to visit an old and impressive cemetery, one of the London’s Magnificent Seven.
The Schedule this year was packed with three tracks of (mostly) 1h long presentations within a wide range of topics: from social engineering to exploitation techniques, from crypto-currencies to IoT related threats, to GSM hacking. Some amazing workshops were running simultaneously in rooms that were bearing the familiar names of AES, 2DES and Blowfish.
This year’s Badge is not only extremely handsome, but also may turn out to be very handy, at least for hardware-oriented researchers, as it happens to be a BusBlaster v3 board, especially customized for 44CON (you can find the full specification here). This small cute thingy can be used to program and debug embedded ARM devices.
With so many things going on simultaneously, it was impossible to fully attend even a third of them. Moreover, the online schedule didn’t include the description of the talks, so in some cases choosing the right track in advance was kind of a lottery. Nevertheless, the overall quality of presentations was so high, that no matter which talks you chose, you always ended up with some new, valuable information.
From the selection of very good talks I attended, here are my favourite ones:
- “Researching Android devices security with the help of a droid army”, by Joshua J. Drake (@jduck) in which – in a quite entertaining way – Joshua explained how and why he built his research lab, capable of testing 40+ Android devices at the same time. I was really impressed by the framework Joshua invented for managing his “droid army”.
- “I hunt TR-069 Admins: pwning ISPs like a boss”, by Shahar Tal (@jifa). This talk was especially interesting to me, as I’m currently involved in researching threats for small network devices, such as residential gateways (aka SOHO routers), from which a fair share is using the TR-069 protocol to talk to the ISP’s Auto Configuration Servers. It turns out (not really surprisingly, if you ask me), that this protocol is poorly secured and highly vulnerable, and might be exploited in a way that could affect a whole set of devices. And the worst thing about it is that the average user can’t do much to improve the security of their network, even if they have sufficient knowledge. Most of the responsibility lies with the service providers, together with hardware vendors, who don’t seem concerned enough about security issues…
- “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: GRX and Spy Agency”, by Stephen Kho and Rob Kuiters. This quite an intriguing talk on how and why GCHQ hacked the Belgian GRX provider was given by experts from the KPN CISO team and concluded the 2nd day of the conference. The first part of the talk was a technical description of the GRX protocol, it’s functionality and weaknesses, and which kind of information can be leaked; in the second part the speakers presented the results of “extensive network scanning” that they conducted during the last several months. It’s really scary that there are a lot of devices running vulnerable and *terribly* outdated software on GRX networks.
The Networking has been made easier with Gin O’Clock, a one-hour break in the afternoon schedule (on both conference days), which was especially dedicated for human interaction and socialization in the intimate atmosphere of the conference bar. A traditional red double-decker bus was there to provide British ale, cider and Pimm’s; every attendee was also offered a free glass of gin & tonic.
Some of The Materials have already been published and they are available at Slideshare.
Overall, The Experience was really great and we are looking forward to attending the next 44CON in 2015!
September’s 3x CON: Part 1