Cyber crime and hacking from the eyes of the bad guys

Have you ever wanted to know about hacking and cybercrime? Well I’ve been hooked since the eighties although I usually reserve my curiosity for for films and TV programmes with hacking in them.Last week I attended the HP Labs lecture in Bristol about cyber crime. Usually I go to HP Labs lectures for the free food and alcohol at the end (my husband goes for the techie lectures) but since I am up the duff the alcohol has been off limits so it takes a really good lecture to get me interested. This time I wasn’t disappointed.

The talk was presented by James Lyne, the Director of Technology Strategy at Sophos. You can see easily why he has risen so high. His talk was funny, engaging and kept me interested through the whole thing. It wasn’t too dumbed down either but I don’t think he needed to explain what a DDoS attack was – I mean everyone knows what one of those is right? Just please don’t organise one for my tiny insignificant website. You all have bigger fish to fry. He didn’t even plug the Sophos antivirus app which I already had installed on my Android phone. Respect!

It was fascinating to hear about the work they do at Sophos how sometimes they hack the hackers so they can find out from the bad guys what the vulnerabilities are so they can fix them, who then find new ones once they realise they have been fixed and then create new ones, which Sophos then find ‘cures’ for and so on. I could go on all night with that!

He showed us hacking tools he’d ‘stolen’ from the hackers and programmes which he used for his presumably white hat hacking jaunts.

The dangers of Smartphone security

There was a really funny part where he asked what smartphones people had. First he asked about iPhones and a few unsteady hands went up (James, is obviously an Apple fan) and he joked that the pride had gone and they needed to reclaim the coolness. Then he asked about Android users and a whole host of hands shot up, pride beaming out of every Android owning face in the room, including my own. How the world has changed!

The point about the smartphone part of the presentation is that many people think they are safe when using them. He was able to demonstrate just how unsafe they were by snooping using his equipment to find what wifi connections people had looked at even though they weren’t currently connected to any wifi. He said, had he been of the bad guy persuasion then he could have created a wifi connection with the same name as one which your phone had been connected to before, which would mean it would automatically connect without your knowledge and steal some private credential you would rather keep to yourself.

The last few minutes of the lecture were a question and answer session. One question I found fascinating. Which computer operating system would the speaker deem to be most secure? The answer was surprising. He was at pains to point put that if the system was properly configured then he would rank them, Linux, Windows then Mac. Kind of blows your mind away don’t it.

All in all, this was a brilliant lecture which I am so glad I went to. In fact for once the food and drink paled into comparison with the actual talk. Full markes to HP and SOPHOS. Although please HP, could you bring back the goats cheese parcels, those cylindrical dark green things were the worst thing I ever tasted. There is no sauce that could ever improve that! Oh and more variety of non-caffinated or alcohol drinks would be nice. I was stuck with Apple Juice again.

If you are interested in security then the there is a competition he was plugging. It was called Cyber Security Challenge UK. More information can be found at https://cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk/. It is worth doing, you could win training opportunities at Masters level as well as internship places. If I was cleverer I would go for it!

What do you think? Please comment.