Highwire PR at Black Hat USA 2015

Leave your smart phones, tablets, drones, rifles and cars at home (yeah, I said rifles). This year’s 18th annual Black Hat USA is boasting some seriously cool sessions from hacking sniper rifles to remotely killing a Jeep on the highway to cloning payment devices. Highwire PR’s security practice will be there front and center alongside corporate information security professionals, government infosec pros – oh and hackers.

To say security is a major concern to all is an understatement usa-v2-inactive– just in the past few months we’ve seen the largest government breach to date when the Office of Personnel Management was hacked leaving more than 20 million vulnerable, a vulnerability called Stagefright that can affect millions with just one text message, and to round that out: data breaches are paving the way for a significant jump in cybersecurity funding. This year’s Black Hat attendees are getting ready to learn, network and attend a solid lineup of must-see presentations.

So what session’s are Highwire’s security pros looking forward to most?

Bill Bode, account director
I’m sort of a space nerd (ask me about my idea for my space-themed dive bar, “Space Bar.”) This, combined with my interest in security makes my most anticipated talk a no brainer: Colby Moore from Synack will be taking Black Hat attendees step by step on how to hack a satellite, with real world attack vulnerabilities in his talk, Spread Spectrum Satcom Hacking: Attacking the GlobalStar Simplex Data Service. I wouldn’t miss it for the world (get it?)

Pete Johnson, account manager
The one I’m most excited about is “Remote Exploitation of an Unaltered Passenger Vehicle” by Charlie Miller & Chris Valasek. Andy Greenberg at Wired published a really crazy piece about Miller & Valasek’s research last week—with arguably the best lede in an article I’ve read all year. Given the rapid shift toward connected cars and the industry’s race to usher in a driverless future, these kinds of exploits raise a lot of questions (if you were a fan of Michael Hastings’ work for Rolling Stone, you’ll probably find yourself fighting some gnawing questions).

Denise Schenasi, senior account executive
I’m interested in the session on, “Back doors and front doors breaking the unbreakable system“. Given the recent U.S. Government hack and the increasingly rampant cyber and insider threats on government institutions and their employees, it’ll be interesting to see what this session adds to the industry debate- and their thoughts on whether the government should – or shouldn’t – have backdoor access to encrypted data.

Isaac Steinmetz, account executive
This presentation on “Android Security State of the Union” should be especially interesting given the recent attention that Stagefright garnered. The presentation will draw on data derived from “hundreds of millions” of devices in order to highlight some of the most pressing Android security issues. The scale of this research alone is impressive. Furthermore, it’s extremely timely, as we’re faced with a vulnerability that could affect close to 1 billion Android devices.

Mariah Robertson, account associate
Pen Testing a City” sounds like it’s going to be a really interesting talk. As our world becomes increasingly connected, and the idea of hacking airplanes and critical infrastructure becomes a bit more real (and terrifying), it will be interesting to hear about what could happen if hackers were to take down an entire city! Is your city prepared for this kind of attack?

Laura Pezzini, account associate
las-vegas-04Bringing a Cannon to a Knife Fight” should be really interesting — considering how deeply governments worldwide are now involved in trying to boost security efforts, it’s fascinating that the Chinese Communist Party literally has a weapon called the “Great Cannon” to suppress any sites they deem against their agenda with a casual DDoS attack.

Alexi Foster, account associate
Whenever we are hit with a major breach, there seems to be a lot of skepticism around human error, activity, and response. The talk on “Automated Human Vulnerability Scanning with AVA” will be interesting to learn if/how we can test human response to security incidents, and what the behavior analysis finds.

Devon Swanson, account associate
The talk on “Exploiting IT Analytics to Create a Human Layer Security Initiative” is one I have my eye on because Dtex examines the “people-centric” aspect of security that leads to insider threats. This workshop actually sounds super interesting by examining user analytics for the human layer of security threats.

Interested in meeting with Highwire PR at Black Hat this year? Email us at Hi@HighwirePR.com

The Bleeding Edge: Highwire’s Disruptive Buzzword Hacks

Hi Mike,

I wanted to connect with you on a game-changing big data company that is disrupting the stack. Led by a team of visionary entrepreneurs, they have been killing it with over two consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, and are ready to shake up the global SaaS market.

Millennials, for better or worse, have catalyzed a paradigm shift in how we work, leveraging revolutionary tech to consumerize workflows and move the needle on mission-critical tasks. As the tech giants battle to control untapped markets, and VCs chase the next unicorn, we are doubling down on scaling cloud-based solutions that will enable the internet of things, connected homes, self driving cars, and beyond.

Our founders’ mission is to be the Uber for making the world a better place, and I’d love to connect you with one of their thought leaders for a discussion on the emerging future of this hot start-up.

Let me know if you have a few minutes to chat.

We can all agree that those three paragraphs are absolute nonsense, right? OK good, now let’s talk about why I just assaulted your thinkspace with that fluff.

Every industry has its own jargon. PR can catch flack for perpetuating buzzwords that may have little substance, and at times that’s a valid critique. As a young professional I quickly learned how easy it was to pepper my copy with whatever vague, buzzy phrase was in vogue at the time. Most often, I did so with the hope that it would make me sound as though I knew what I was talking about, while the result was actually a lame, robotic correspondence.

That’s not to say all popular ideas are inherently bad. At times buzzwords are an effective way to simplify and communicate a complex idea. I could tell you that my company ‘reduces wasted resources by enabling virtual instances to share a single host operating system and relevant binaries, libraries or drivers.’ Or I could simply say it ‘uses containerization to maximize resources.’ Not sure which word to use? There’s a dictionary for that.

New ideas grow to become trends, trends gain popularity and soon become clichés, which die out, only to emerge again with a new spin. It’s understandable that PR would be closely tied to this – it’s our job to talk about what’s going on in a given industry.

Just don’t get carried away. You don’t want to sound like a character in an episode of Silicon Valley. Direct, honest conversation is a key to success in internal, client-facing, or media relations. Keep that in mind next time you start talking “leveraging synergy” with a straight face. And, if gamification helps you stay honest, try playing Buzzword Bingo the next time you write or sit through a meeting.

Inside the Hogwarts Incubator

Here at Highwire we spend a lot of time talking about entrepreneurship and chasing the hype on the tech industry’s latest hot startups. Our clients expect fresh ideas from us and we spend a lot of time brainstorming on both a planned and ad-hoc basis.Hogwarts-castle-harry-potter-166431

A successful brainstorm requires focus, but sometimes the best ideas come from letting your brain off-leash for a while (hey, reporters on Twitter talk about their clever Slack chats with colleagues…why can’t we?).

Stemming from a conversation about startups’ propensity for picking the most vowel-deficient names possible, we thought: What if Hogwarts Academy was actually a startup incubator—a Hog Combinator of sorts? What kinds of companies could we expect to see?

Look no further. We give you the Hogwarts Incubator! (Note: best read while listening to this.)

Weez.ly: A smart app for asthmatics. Ten percent of each app purchase goes to an organization that advocates for air pollution control.

Siri-US: A next-generation digital black box for use in transportation systems. Pitch: “Every time a transportation disaster happens, rescue teams spend weeks digging for the black box. Our next-generation private cloud ‘black box’ allows officials to begin conducting an investigation immediately so they can get to the root of the problem faster.” Our logo is just a black box.

black-box-you-quantifiableMugg.ly: The first-ever canine facial recognition software. Foolishly backed by Carmelo Anthony’s VC firm.

Lum.os: An operating system for smart lighting technology with built in biometric detection systems.

VoldemoRT: A bot platform that automatically RT’s haters of your brand, enabling you to embrace irony and attract savvy hipster millennial customers.

Hufflepuffs: A venture-backed gourmet cream puff chain. Guy Fieri sits on the Board.

Patron.us: A reverse CRM play that lets customers get big data about the businesses they frequent. Run up by CEO Edward Snowden.

Storage Hat: A sorting hat for storage. NEXT.

HaGRID: A “smart grid” solution for homes that exist entirely off the grid. Sensors monitor the amount of solar/wind energy which has been generated, battery back-up systems, water levels in your cisterns, even pH levels in your compost pile.

Mal-foyl: A next-generation proprietary “malware foiling” technology

Expecto-Patronum: An on-demand Tequila delivery service that partners with Pitbull for one-off marketing promotions. No wand required.


9 ¾: A platform that leverages disused freight rail cars and rents space in them to modern mobile-enabled persons of nomadic disposure. Essentially, it’s Uber for rail-riding techie hobos.

QuidDITCH: A personal finance/automated savings app based out of the UK, in London’s trendy Shoreditch neighborhood.

Snaype: A critically misunderstood consumer social app that somehow raises over 5 billion dollars in funding, forcing tech journalists to think “What comes after ‘decacorn’?”  Despite global popularity that turns “snip” into a verb, CEO Dick Costolo gets massive heat from investors along the ride, but saves the company from peril at the 23rd hour, finally bringing him Silicon Valley vindication. Also, Dick Costolo starts wearing all black.

Written by Pete Johnson, Margaret Farrell and Bill Bode, account directors/managers in San Francisco, who all know way too much about Harry Potter