Black Hat shows its quirky side

From an Edward Snowden cutout to panties with a message the premier security conference has it all

  • Attention seekers The digital security exploits revealed at Black Hat are always impressive and hard to predict, so the bar is set pretty high for anyone hoping to grab attention at the show outside of the security briefings. That means vendors and individuals try hard to come up with ways they can stand out from the crowd. Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy efforts from Black Hat 2013.

  • Thumbs up or down? At the FileTrek booth a life-size cutout of NSA leaker Edward Snowden dressed in a half cop-half con outfit bears a sign inviting Black Hat attendees to vote whether he’s a hero or a villain. At the end of the first day, it was a 91-91 tie, and when all the votes were counted at the end of the conference the score was 138 in favor of villain, 138 for hero. Coincidentally, the File Trek display was directly across the aisle from the booth for Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.

  • Fashion challenged? Despite the labels on his clothing Alejondro Codena knows he’s wearing a black cap and a black shirt and that neither is a blue coat. The garments are just part of the uniform worn by Blue Coat staffers at their Black Hat booth. They don’t wear coats of any color.

  • Popular panties These women’s underwear and their important message about visiting Las Vegas were a hot item given out by SSH. The company showed up at the conference with 150 of them, and they were all gone after three hours.

  • Custom T’s Many companies wind up supplying just XL t-shirts at their conference booths but not TripWire. It featured what it called T-Shirt Adventure in which passersby could request S, M, L or XL shirts adorned with one of two of its promotional designs, and they would be made up on the spot.

  • Viking quest Security consultant Jake Williams, a speaker at the Black Hat conference, works on a puzzle at the Checkmarx booth. Once he solves it, he gets the chance to win an iPad. That hat he’s wearing is a giveaway from IT security and fraud prevention firm Norse Corp.

  • Want a job? Black Hat is known for having some of the most capable security researchers in the world among its attendees, and businesses use the conference to recruit new employees. Dow Jones is no exception, paying to place its want ad on the narrow strip between stairways in the escalator bank leading to the conference area.

  • Oops These laptops ran into some hard times, but that didn’t mean the content of their hard drives was lost. Data recovery firm DriveSavers managed to pull the drives from the machines and copy the data for their owners. Meanwhile DriveSavers got to keep the laptops, which catch the eye of many passersby in exhibit halls.

  • Surface? At Black Hat? Although it’s unclear what direct connection Microsoft’s Surface tablets have with research into security exploits, they were featured at the company’s show-floor booth at which the company mainly seemed to be recruiting expertise for its Trustworthy Computing effort.

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