How eWEEK Got Hacked at Black Hat

A group of reporters from Global Security Mag were kicked out of the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas after stealing password information from another reporter who will remain nameless-we'll call him "me."

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LAS VEGAS-As some of you may have already read by now, one of our brilliant cyber-minds at eWEEK who will remain nameless (Brian Prince ... oh wait ... damn!) entered one of his passwords in the clear and had it intercepted at this year's Black Hat conference.

Alas, I broke one of the cardinal rules of security and, but for the grace of the Black Hat conference staff, would have had my name added to the infamous Wall of Sheep.

Here's the back story: A group of journalists representing Global Security Mag, one of the media sponsors of the event, decided it would be a good idea to see if they could catch some of their fellow journalists insecurely accessing the Web via the LAN (local area network) in the conference pressrooms.

Although all the technical details of what the trio of journalists did was not known early Thursday evening, it appears they used a classic man-in-the-middle attack. The group snagged a password for a Web-based application used by eWEEK. That password, as you might suspect, has since been changed back at eWEEK headquarters.

They also claimed to have gotten information on a reporter for CNET News, though a CNET reporter at the conference denied the information was accurate. The journalists from Global Security then approached Black Hat staff and tried to get our user names added to the Wall of Sheep.

For those who don't know, the Wall of Sheep is a mainstay at DEFCON, another security conference held right after Black Hat. The purpose, according to Black Hat founder Jeff Moss, is to serve as an educational tool for attendees who visit the Wall of Sheep room.

"There's an educational component, where you can come in, plug in [and] they'll tell you what's going on," he said. "They'll give you tools for sniffing, teach you how to monitor the network, how to look for your computer leaking stuff."

When the Global Security journalists approached the Black Hat staff about putting the stolen information on the wall, they were rebuffed. It turns out it is against conference rules to target the journalists in the pressroom, and Black Hat officials said there may be criminal issues involved with the attack.

Read here how patience pays off for hackers in the Web security war.

The three-identified as Dominique Jouniot, Mauro Israel and Marc Brami-were promptly kicked out of the conference and are banned from attending DEFCON as well. However, fellow reporter Humphrey Cheung of TG, who was in the Wall of Sheep room at the time, snapped a quick photo of a screen displaying the goods.

And so it was that just as I was about to relax in my room before heading off to the McAfee dinner, I received a call from the Black Hat staff saying my password may have been stolen. Now some may ask why I used my password in the clear in the first place. There's no good answer to this question, though I will say the application I was using does not require SSL VPN for remote access. Previously, a similar application we used here at eWEEK did. But with it no longer necessary to log in, I got out of the habit of using the SSL VPN client on my computer.

While Moss spoke of possibly taking steps to further secure the conference infrastructure in the future, Black Hat Technical Director Dominique Brezinski noted correctly that you can't protect against everything.

"There's a certain point in all security kind of risk evaluation that you have to trust something, you have to accept certain risks," he said.

Maybe so, but the wrong amount of trust just leaves you with egg on your face. And speaking for myself, I only like my eggs at breakfast.