This week’s latest stunt hacking episode seemed to cement the security community’s reputation as the industry bad boy. The Wired car hacking story demonstrated an absence of the responsible disclosure most security researchers strive to follow. While the story indicated that Miller and Valasek have been working with Chrysler for nine months and that they’re leaving out a key element of the published exploit, there’s still going to be enough left to cause some mayhem when released at Black Hat USA next month. Moreover, the story’s writer and innocent bystanders were often in harm’s way during the demonstration on a major highway in St. Louis.
The annual Black Hat conference in Vegas is an adult version of “look what I can do” for the security set, perfectly placed in the city’s carnival atmosphere. A grand spectacle where every breaker competes to get Daddy’s attention by taking apart the toaster, or car in this case. The media loves this stuff and floods outlets with paranoia-inducing stories the few weeks before and during the conference. What’s so disturbing about these events isn’t the frailty of our technology-enabled stuff aka “Internet of Things,” but the need for a subset of people to focus on its faults. The typical rationale from many of these researchers for their theatrical, hype-infested releases during Black Hat and other security conferences, is that they can’t get any attention from manufacturers when going the path of responsible disclosure. I would argue that this behavior is more about ego than concern for the safety of consumers, because there are plenty of principled researchers, quiet heroes who slog along filing bugs with vendors, unknown and overlooked by the general public.
Most idiots can blow up a cathedral with enough C-4. But it takes a Bernini or Michelangelo with hundreds of talented, dedicated artisans, to design and build one. People who will never be remembered by tourists standing in the middle St. Peter’s, glorying in the majesty of such an achievement.