Cyber Security

CyberwarCon – focusing on the impact of cyber-badness

A welcome return to the hacker conferences of yesteryear

There used to just be hacker conferences, but now the societal impact of increasingly connected systems seems much higher, so specialty conferences are popping up. Seeking to bring policy-makers and influencers together, where could be a more appropriate location for CyberwarCon than Washington D.C.?

Notably, it’s not held in Silicon Valley, where the circular echo of self-admiring technophiles fawn over each other, each pronouncing the future brighter than the last. In D.C. it feels more real, like the rest of us are involved and asking what happens when things go wrong, and do we have a policy for that? It’s easy to get caught in the tech echo chamber; this is not that.

Influencing the Capitol Hill crowd, and the lawmakers ensconced in walls of marble is big business, and hard to escape in D.C. But this is also where society fleshes out the larger issues, technical and otherwise.

In this case, the goal is to define more clearly the potential societal impacts, and formulate responses that ring true when it comes to protecting millions of normal folks with laws and responses that make sense to the non-overly-technical amongst us, meaning the other 99%.

And it’s not just about attribution. Whether or not we know (or could find) the apartment building and number of nasty attackers on the other side of the globe, what are some things we can do to protect ourselves against such miscreants?

Therefore, we discussed things like disinformation campaign effectiveness, thwarting non-authentic voices seeking to out-amplify the natural resonance of an individual with a particular point of view, often in opposition to civil discourse. One attendee posed the question of whether we’ve collectively reached “peak disinformation”, or whether it’s trending up or down. No one had a clear answer, but the sentiment seemed to be that it will continue to trend upward, and get more efficient and targeted.

We talked about the evolution of the threat actors behind GreyEnergy, a group bent on impacting critical systems, now expanding to include targets in other localities – a natural progression and the kind of thing that could certainly inspire and inform other attack campaigns elsewhere.

At CyberwarCon, a packed room listened to the details and discussed for some time after the show as well, the sort of information sharing that helps the whole community. It harkened back to a time when hacker conferences were a little more one-on-one, with small groups sharing the latest techniques, not beset by vast troves of marketing denizens packing a huge exhibit hall with shiny lights and tricks, scarcely aware of the real issues, let alone discussing them in great depth. It’s great to see a conference that reminds us of the days of all of us sitting and trying to solve problems, being bent upon protecting us all. CyberwarCon does that, and is a most welcome throwback to the hacker conferences of yore, hastily printed badges and all. I miss that.

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