A few weeks ago, Ping Yan and I went to Vancouver for the CanSecWest conference in order to present our talk entitled “Intelligent Use of Intelligence: Design to Discover”. Being accepted at this worldwide event, needless to say, we were pretty excited!

This article will give a short overview and a quick recap of all the speakers/events that caught our attention.

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We left beautiful San Francisco on March 10th and went directly to our Vancouver office. The weather was sunny and warm and we were so pleased to meet our Canadian peers – we definitely had big smiles on our faces walking to the office!

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On the first day of the conference we discovered the big venue. The event takes place at the beautiful Sheraton Hotel. The conference format is a single track with consecutive one hour presentations beginning at 9:00 a.m. The conference room had 4 huge screens and a very nice sound system allowing clear communication. 

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The conference was full of interesting talks. Most were quite technical and dug deep into computer security mechanics. Several speakers caught our attention:

Revisiting iOS Kernel (In)Security – Tarjei Mandt; Azimuth Security

Tarjei described an amazing technique to break and predict a random number generator used in the iOS kernel.

The Real Deal of Android Device Security: the Third Party – Collin Mulliner, Jon Oberheide; Northeastern University, Duo Security

Collin and Jon exposed, in a very elegant way, the overall process of an Android infection and the deployment of a patch. They also presented several of their tools to help the Android community.

ROPs are for the 99%: A revolutionary bypass technology – Yang Yu a.k.a. “tombkeeper”; NSFOCUS Labs

Tombkeeper presented a new mind-blowing technique to implement ROP exploits.

Utilizing machine learning and DNS traffic to discover malware infections and C&C traffic – Brandon Niemczyk, Josiah Hagen, Jonathan Andersson

The talk from Brandon with HP Research Labs was particularly interesting to us, as they tackle a similar problem and a similar dataset as us. They took a Machine Learning approach to identifying botnet behavior examining DNS traffic. The probabilistic model they built generalizes over the likelihood of certain events chains, including periodicity characteristics of a host’s DNS requests, and the number of resource records being returned. The model seems to do a good job identifying hosts infected with malware, but effective identification of malicious servers is yet to come.

Finally, we got to talk on Friday (March 14th). Ping and I presented our research on DNS traffic analysis and data 3D visualization. If you missed it, don’t worry! You can find our slides here :

The audience responded very well to the talk and people seemed extremely interested. We definitely received thoughtful questions and feedback. 

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In addition to the talks, the annual Pwn2Own competition was also held at CanSecWest. If you’re not familiar with the contest, it is a zero-day (0day) discovery contest where all the participants have a chance at earning a great deal of money for unveiling vulnerabilities in some of the most widely used applications and operating systems. The world-renowned VUPEN team was there and the competition unveiled several ground breaking 0day exploits. Perhaps the best summary of the event was Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ ZDNet post.

To conclude, Ping and I had a wonderful experience talking at CanSecWest. Great kudos to all the speakers and contest winners, and a very special thanks to the CanSecWest staff (especially Yuriko and Dragos) who made everything easy and smooth. We hope to see you all again soon!

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