RESET 2018 Conference Wrap-Up

The first edition of RESET cybersecurity conference took place last week in the Kennedy Lecture Theatre of the UCL in London. Hundreds of attendees gathered together to discuss about cyber attacks, threat actors, threat hunting, defence strategies, and more. The event schedule consisted of 8 technical talks, 2 panels, and opening and closing notes. The speaker selection was excellent, with the presence of well known figures such as Wendy Nather, Kim Zetter, and Rebekah Brown.

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After the brief opening note, the first talk was by Mary Haigh (Product Director, BAE Systems) on 'Powering Adaptive Defence with Threat Intelligence'. In her talk, she discussed how the different blocks of cyber defence - threat intelligence being a part of it- can compare with our own immune systems. She emphasised how using threat intelligence alone and without really understanding what it is and how it relates to our business may cause heavy damage instead of providing aid.

The second talk of the day was by Kim Zetter on 'Stuxnet & Beyond, Digital Weapons & the Future of our Cities'. Kim is an investigative journalist and author, and she has performed extensive and thorough research on Stuxnet. She authored the book 'Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon', in which she tells the whole story of Stuxnet since its discovery; it is a fascinating book that everyone should read. In her talk, she gave us an overview of Stuxnet, from the perspective of how, for the first time, a piece of malware could cause physical damage. She mentioned similar cases as the attacks in Ukraine to the power grids, and also other less known cases that are suspected to also be caused by malware.

The next talk was on quite a different topic. Adizah Tejani (Director of Marketing EMEA, Token) introduced us Open Banking. In her talk, 'Evolving from Building Blocks of Open Banking', she walked us through what is open banking, why is it important, and what are the challenges being addressed at the moment. In a nutshell, Open Banking is a technology that is based on the use of open APIs to provide third parties a secure way to access your financial data. This technology should facilitate our everyday financial transactions, but is still in development; we are not there yet.

  Adizah Tejani on her talk about Open Banking Technology.

Adizah Tejani on her talk about Open Banking Technology.

   "So this is almost where we are at the moment [with open banking]. Which doesn't fill the room with confidence..." - Adizah Tejani

"So this is almost where we are at the moment [with open banking]. Which doesn't fill the room with confidence..." - Adizah Tejani

After the first coffee break of the day, Andrea Limbago (Chief Social Scientist, Endgame) took the stage to present "Bots, Trolls, Warriors and the Path Ahead'. In her talk she talked about these three elements, how do they work together in real scenarios, and how attackers are rapidly leveraging these technologies to achieve their own goals. As for the meaning of bots, trolls, and warriors, Andrea explained:

  • Warriors = "experts in computer network operations".
  • Trolls = "entities who leverage online forums to influence opinion and shape narratives".
  • Bots = "applications that runs automated tasks".
 Step 1) in becoming a 'hacker' is to determine your role in the cyber crime economy. - Rashmi Knowles

Step 1) in becoming a 'hacker' is to determine your role in the cyber crime economy. - Rashmi Knowles

The last talk before the lunch break was given by Rashmi Knowles (Field CTO EMEA, RSA Security). Her talk, 'Insider look at Cybercrime and the Dark Web', was quite informative and entertaining. In merely 30 minutes, she explained everyone how in 6 simple steps, by using the tools and resources available in the dark web and underground forums, you can become a "hacker". The six steps in a nutshell: 1) Define what ROLE you want to have in the cyber crime economy; 11) Educate yourself (online courses) or outsource it; 111) Decide your specialty; 1v) Purchase goods; v) Promote your business (important!); v1) Cash out. Through examples and screenshots of the underground forums, Rashmi talk was the perfect mix of an educative talk and also entertaining.

 Wendy Nather, ' Denial of Trust: a new attack', RESET 2018.

Wendy Nather, ' Denial of Trust: a new attack', RESET 2018.

Next, Wendy Nather (Director of Advisory CISOs, Duo Security) gave an excellent talk titled 'Denial of Trust: The New Attack'. Denial of trust attacks are those that focus on undermining the trust between, for instance, systems and users. One of the most interesting ways of performing this attack is as Wendy explained, via Malicious UX design, where attackers use subtle ways to push users towards certain unsafe or insecure behaviours. Is a must-watch talk, as it provides new perspective on attacks that are usually not talked about.

The last two talks of the day were also very interesting. First, Rebekah Brown (Head of Threat Intelligence, Rapid7), presented 'Why We Need the "Why" - Leveraging Threat Intelligence to Answer Critical Questions'.

 The five stages of change, by Rebekah Brown. Photo credit:  Zoë Rose .

The five stages of change, by Rebekah Brown. Photo credit: Zoë Rose.

Her talk was full of teachings and is hard to summarise. The two most important things I got from it are:

  • Telling 'facts' is not enough, it is extremely important to tell a story. 
  • Change in people is hard, there are five stages of change:  precontemplation, contemplation, determination, action, and maintenance.

Her talk is also on my list of 'must watch' again, as there are a lot of things to learn from it.

The last talk before the closing notes was given by Andrea Berger (Senior Research Associate & Program Manager, MIIS). In her talk 'Hidden in Plain Sight: North Korea's IT Sector and Cybersecurity', she gave us an overview on the North Korea activity and strategies when it comes to cybersecurity. It was a completely foreign topic for me, so I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to watch again.

There were also two panel sessions during the conference, which opened the discussion on very interesting topics from state of the art in cybersecurity in public/private sectors to big data, blockchain, IoT and ethical hacking.

  • Panel Session: Public-Private Roles in Securing Cyberspace
  • Panel Session: Securing the Unsecurable

The panels were formed by 3 and 4 people respectively. The second panel is the one I enjoyed the most, and it was a pleasure to meet the panelists and get a sense of where is everything heading to:

  • Amber Baldet, CEO and Cofounder, Clovyr
  • Stephanie Edwards, Security Consultant, MWR InfoSecurity
  • Zoë Rose, Ethical Hacker, Baringa Partners
  • Ade Adewunmi, Industry Consultant, Think Big Analytics

The closing note was given by the two main organisers behind RESET2018, Kirsten Ward and Saher Naumaan. The whole event was fantastic and extremely inspiring. We hope we will see a RESET2019 next year. Thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

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Interested in reading more about the event?

We also recommend reading other interesting summaries of the event by Tony Morbin of SC Media UK:

Also this is an excellent article by Kate O'Flahertyon the idea behind organising the event: