Black Hat 2019 trends: Social media influence campaigns, big business, ATM hacking

TechRepublic's Karen Roby interviews Dan Patterson about the top trends at the Black Hat USA 2019 cybersecurity conference.
Written by Karen Roby, Reporter and  Dan Patterson, Contributor

CNET and CBS News Senior Producer Dan Patterson is reporting on the Black Hat USA 2019 cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. He spoke with TechRepublic's Karen Roby about the main topics at Black Hat 2019. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Karen Roby: Thousands of hackers have descended on Sin City for this week's Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. Dan Patterson is covering this for us with CBS News. Dan, just tell us first, what is Black Hat, and why is it so important to cybersecurity in general?

Dan Patterson: Right behind this screen is the Las Vegas strip packed with tens of thousands of tourists, but right now, this week, it's also packed with 20,000 hackers and cybersecurity professionals who have gathered for the Black Hat cybersecurity conference. Black Hat was founded in 1997 by a guy named Jeff Moss as a place for both hackers and cyber professionals to meet along with business partners. Why business partners? Well, because business gets hacked all the time. So, what we see now in 2019, is this gathering of blue hair hackers who are attacking corporate systems on purpose. We also see major companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, and hundreds of others. Why? Because hacking and cybersecurity is, in itself, big business.

Karen Roby: Okay. And Dan, of course, the cybersecurity industry has grown rapidly. So what are some of the bigger trends that you're seeing at Black Hat this year?

Dan Patterson: One of the top topics of conversation has interestingly been social media influence campaigns and how to hack the algorithms that propagate social networks and how we can protect ourselves from influence campaigns. Now, this is often a tool of political actors, but influence campaigns can also be used by businesses. Why? Because spreading advertising like content on social networks is incredibly easy. We also see this trend of election hacking and voting machine hacking. Why? Because the 2020 election is already underway, and the security professionals here are looking at voting machines. They're also looking at social networks, and they're looking at critical infrastructure.

SEE: Facebook data privacy scandal: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Well, it's a big business event, so a major trend is big business. We've seen all kinds of activities surrounding companies like IBM Security and Microsoft, not just with acquisitions, but working within the space to make the community more secure. Their argument, both of these companies, say that, "Hey look, it is in our best interest to collaborate because this helps the entire environment become more secure."

And finally, some of the most interesting things we saw this year was ATM hacking. In fact, just moments ago, we were able to watch a remote hacker attack an ATM machine and spit out bills. This is something that is maybe not a big global trend, but can certainly impact consumers and the businesses that protect consumers at ATM machines.

SEE: Video: Election hacking takes center stage at the Black Hat conference (CBS News)

Karen Roby: All right, great, Dan. You know, certainly cybersecurity is big business, not just for tech professionals, but for consumers as well. So for more on Black Hat 2019, make sure you check out ZDNet, CNET, and TechRepublic.

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