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Black Hat Cringes As Its Users Get Phishing Email

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Black Hat USA 2012 conference attendees hit by apparent phishing attack

Black Hat, the highly respected information security event organiser, apologised to its clients after 7,500 people registered for the Black Hat USA 2012 conference received an email which looked like a classic phishing attack.

Some of the attendees decided the message was an elaborate joke, while others began to worry that  internal security – at a  leading security event company! – was compromised. The explanation was a lot simpler: the message was accidentally sent by a volunteer who got access to the event partners’ mailing system.

Smells like phish

The Black Hat Briefings are a series of highly technical information security conferences that bring together professionals from all sides of the information security world – from government agencies to underground hackers. Black Hat calls its annual conference “the best and biggest event of its kind”, so it was especially surprising when the registered attendees discovered the spam email.

Phishing conceptThe message, headed ‘Your admin password’, claimed to be from Black Hat, even though it was sent from an unrelated server. It informed the users that their password had been changed, and asked them to sign in through an included URL address.

The email exhibited all signs of an unsophisticated phishing attack – it seemed to attempt to acquire personal information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Black Hat later explained that it shares some of its data with key event partners, including a company called ITN, which was handling on-site registration and check-in systems. Every Black Hat show employs hundreds of volunteers. One of them somehow got his or her hands on the ITN event management software and sent the nonsensical email.

“We have reviewed the server logs, we know the user, host, and have spoken with the volunteer who has emailed each of you this morning,” said Trey Ford, general manager at Black Hat in a blog post.

The functionality that allowed the volunteer to access the mailing lists has been removed from the system as a precautionary measure.

“Our most valued assets at Black Hat are our delegates and their privacy. We work very hard to maintain that. We want everyone to come to Black Hat to learn and enjoy their time without fear of having their personal or professional information compromised. We are happy to report there are no signs of compromise,” reported Ford.

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