Here’s a lesson for reporters covering the Black Hat security conference: Trust no one.
Reporters for the French security publication Global Security Mag were kicked out of the annual security conference Thursday after they ran hacking tools on the press room network, in an effort to embarrass their fellow journalists, according to conference organizers.
Two journalists, Mauro Israel, and his editor Marc Brami were ejected from Black Hat after being accused of hacking into the press room network and sniffing information from fellow journalists. A third journalist for the publication Dominique Jouniot was also reportedly ejected.
“They were in the press room attacking other press,” said Jeff Moss, Black Hat’s director. CNET news and eWeek were reportedly targets of the attack.
After gaining access to usernames and passwords from some of their fellow reporters, Israel took the information to the Wall of Sheep, a volunteer effort that tracks unsecured traffic on the Black Hat wireless network and posts information on those who are at risk of hacking.
The Wall of Sheep volunteers wanted nothing to do with it.
“We looked at them and we were like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not the network we are sniffing,'” said Brian Markus, a Wall of Sheep volunteer who goes by the hacker name Riverside. Israel then said, “No that’s from the press room. We’re press,” according to Markus.
“He thought it was really funny,” Markus said. “He seemed really arrogant, laughing and happy about it … It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.”
The computer networks at Black Hat, and its sister conference Defcon, are considered some of the most hostile networks in the world, but reporters at the show are given access to wired Ethernet connections that are considered to be secure and separate from the fray.
Tapping into that trusted network is considered uncool, to say the least.
“That’s not right,” said Markus, who has been working on Wall of Sheep since its inception at Defcon in 2002. “It’s completely against what all of us are trying to do.”
The Wall of Sheep volunteers say that they are trying to educate users on the dangers of sending unencrypted information on wireless networks.
Moss characterized the journalist’s behavior as “really weird,” saying that they’d been coming to the security conference for several years without any problem.
Brami could not be reached immediately for comment. A colleague at Global Security Mag’s office outside Paris, reached Friday morning, said she was unaware of the incident.
(Peter Sayer in Paris contributed to this report)