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Story Lines Abound On Eve Of Black Hat 2006

Typical of the drama that often unfolds at this security conference, Microsoft is making its first appearance at the event and will tout the stronger security measures in Vista. On the same day as the Microsoft presentation, Joanna Rutkowska, a security researcher, will give a talk titled "Subverting Vista Kernel For Fun And Profit."

The Black Hat 2006 security conference opens Wednesday in Las Vegas, and there's a palpable sense of anticipation in the industry over who will be this year's Mike Lynn.

At Black Hat 2005, Lynn--then a researcher at Internet Security Systems--was sued by Cisco Systems and investigated by the FBI after giving a presentation on a vulnerability he discovered in the operating system that runs Cisco routers. At the last minute, Cisco and ISS had tried to pull Lynn's presentation, and one of the lasting images from the event was the army of temporary workers that Cisco had sent in before the show to tear the PowerPoint slide shots from each and every conference program.

Lynn has since moved on to Juniper Networks and isn't on this year's conference agenda. Still, there are intriguing story lines at this year's confab, which is expected to draw about 3,000 attendees, including security researchers, hackers, technology vendors and government officials.

Microsoft is making its first appearance at the event and will spend a day's worth of presentations touting the stronger security measures in Windows Vista. Microsoft also will join Cisco and Ernst & Young as Platinum Sponsors of the event.

On the same day, Joanna Rutkowska, a security researcher at COSEINC, a Singapore-based IT security company, will give a presentation titled "Subverting Vista Kernel For Fun And Profit." Rutkowska will provide details of a technology called Blue Pill that she has developed for creating stealth malware in Windows Vista x64 systems.

Network access control (NAC) is one of the hottest topics in the security industry these days, but the technology is far from bulletproof, said Ofir Arkin, CTO and co-founder of Insightix, an Israel-based security startup. Arkin plans to give a presentation that examines various NAC solutions on the market and demonstrate methods of bypassing their security measures.

Although NAC is a valid technology that plays a key role in network security, Arkin said companies need accurate knowledge about what's on the network for the NAC to be effective. "There's a lack of contextual knowledge regarding what is on the network that actually harms the way NAC provides security and controls," he said.

Melanie Rieback, a Ph.D. student in computer systems at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, will give a presentation on RFID malware. In a report published in March, Rieback and other researchers recommended that developers of RFID-enhanced systems take steps to add stronger security to limit the potential damage from the coming wave of hackers experimenting with RFID exploits, worms and viruses.

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