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Highwire’s Official Black Hat 2017 Recap

After some time to reflect, here’s our recap of Black Hat 2017 in Las Vegas.

For two decades, the annual conference has been creating opportunities for like-minded security researchers, influencers and hackers to mix and mingle. Talented practitioners across the globe flock to Black Hat, jumping at the chance to show off their latest findings, research and hacking techniques. For this community, it’s all about street cred, and Black Hat prides itself as being the premier stage for the best and the brightest. This year proved no differently, and members from Highwire PR’s security practice had a front row seat on all the action. Here are the takeaways:

Black Hat is Evolving

In the world of cybersecurity, insight is key and, at times, absolutely critical. Navigating this dark and interconnected web is complicated, and for vendors working to develop the latest and greatest in threat protection, Black Hat certainly fits the bill. Highwire saw an increase in client presence beyond the typical, passive 20×20 booth set-up. Instead, our clients were actively looking to advance their knowledge, specialize their technique and better understand what their customers are facing. Black Hat has evolved into the catalyst for that learning. And the awareness is growing. Although hacker attendees still reign during this week, we’ve seen more and more clients’ C-Suite inquiring in curious and positive ways about the conference as a strategic investment.

WannaCry is Still Making Us…well, Wanna Cry

Rubbing elbows with more than 15,000 security professionals gave the Highwire team perspective into some of the year’s more notable cybersecurity breaches. We heard first-hand what attendees thought of the infamous “WannaCry” ransomware attack. Almost 50-percent of people we spoke to felt as though this particular headliner was the “most over-hyped security breach” over the past year. Interestingly enough however, a near identical percentage (46.8) felt as though WannaCry was the most serious breach over the past year.

These numbers left us wondering: How can a cyberattack so severe be considered overhyped at the same time? Perhaps this points to tensions between media and security researchers. While the damage may have been a serious one (WannaCry impacted over 230,000 computers across 150 countries), researchers could be concerned about about how the attack was portrayed from a technical perspective by the media. Those of us closely following that particular cycle will remember how important it was to sort through over-hyped speculations vs. actual facts.

Let’s Get Together

On the media front, we kept our spokespeople busy, whether it was an exchange with NBC’s Alyssa Newcomb on election hacking or a video Q&A on application security with CSO’s Fahmida Rashid. In total, our agency secured more than 80 media briefings for our clients, fostering new and existing relationships and giving them a platform to share their story. While Highwire we build relationships via phone and email for our clients, there really is not substitute for actual, 1:1 facetime with a journalist.

All in all, Black Hat was an important investment for us and our clients, and we’re already kicking things into gear for the next big show…which is RSA 2018 in 244 days. But hey, who’s counting?