Blackhat 2023 Recap

Carrington McDaniel
Nov 20, 2023
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We went. We saw. We hacked.

Blackhat continues to grow every year, with over 400 vendor booths showcasing the latest products and technology in the industry. This year's unofficial trend was heavy on AI as well as supply chain security products.

At Good Code, we work with a lot of early stage startups in the cyber-security industry, giving us a unique perspective into the industry as we work with companies creating products that are blazing new technologies and verticals. Now that Blackhat is over, let's reflect on some of the trends this year.

AI and ML

AI and ML dominated the theme this year, and it's no surprise. With the growth in popularity of ChatGPT, every organization under the sun is trying to incorporate at least some aspect of LLM into their application today. Vendors showcased a wide variety of use cases leveraging these LLM technologies, from augmenting analyst hunting to building full-on automation playbooks.

As a technologist, organizations beginning to embrace AI is very exciting, but as someone who has been in the security industry for some time now, it scares me. Organizations are quick to jump on a bandwagon without fully understanding the implications. For instance, how do you ensure employees aren't leaking sensitive data to these systems or ensure hackers aren't using your AI models against you by training them to be adversaries?

While many vendors added AI capabilities, very few were focused on securing it. One organization that is dear to our heart is Hidden Layer, which focuses on securing ML models and recently won the RSAC Innovation Sandbox award this year. I expect to see many more organizations focused on securing ML next year. Hackers are beginning to leverage AI, so as an industry, we must as well.

Supply Chain Security

This trend caught me off guard; the number of companies advertising for it was more than I thought. At Good Code, we've helped a couple of companies in the supply chain and code security space, so this is something we might know a thing or two about.

Why is this so hot? Web applications remain the top attack vector disclosed in breaches according to Verizon DBIR 2023. Developers have to take on more responsibilities, and unless your team has a very strong security practice in place, they are probably cutting security corners to get the product out. The problem with the security industry is that instead of addressing the root problem, we seem to pile on extra layers; security by abstraction. Rather than solve the problem, this just makes it worse since it becomes so much jumping through hoops users get lazy and find ways to circumvent it.

At Good Code, we believe a lot of these problems lay at the UI layer. Let's say you're a large cloud company that has static file hosting. If the UI for setting that up is convoluted and confusing, it's pretty easy to mark something public and not even realize it. We tend to think simple is better here, and by focusing on the user's outcome rather than a feature, you can help the user achieve greatness rather than weighing them down with things that only advanced users care about. This feature-based development approach is something we at Good Code encounter quite a lot and will be writing a follow-up article on.

Wrapping up

The change in theme from XDR this year was very welcomed by many attendees. The topics discussed this year, such as AI/ML and supply chain security, should have been no surprise to attendees. The same way that technologies like ChatGPT have taken the world by storm, they are also taking the cyber-security industry over by both vendors and adversaries. As this evolution happens, I'm excited to see what the industry comes up with to combat these issues. See you next year at Blackhat!

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