Conference review: Botconf 2014

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Dec 22, 2014

Second edition of 'botnet fighting conference' another great success.

I had been looking forward to the second edition of the Botconf conference ever since I came back from the first one last year, and being given a speakers' slot was the icing on the cake.

The conference, which saw 200 security researchers travel to Nancy, the capital of the French region of Lorraine, had many highlights. But probably my favourites were the 'lightning talks': the conference equivalent of 'open mic' sessions, where researchers were given just three minutes each to present ideas, share new results or look for collaboration from members of the audience. At a conference that (rather like VB conferences) is all about sharing ideas, this was a perfect way to finish the sessions on the first two days of the event and a perfect example of why I enjoyed the conference so much.

In my preview of the conference, I looked forward to many of the speakers who had some link with VB, none of which disappointed. But I thought it would be nice now to look back at some of the other talks.

The conference opened with a keynote by Stewart Garrick of the UK's National Cyber Crime Unit and his former colleague Benedict Addis (now working for ICANN and ShadowServer). They presented details of the takedown of the GameOver Zeus botnet, including some pieces of information that were new to me: after their talk, I finally understood the origin of the "Two weeks to save your computers!" headlines that had appeared in some of the British tabloids.

The keynote presentation left me in no doubt as to the fact that the legal side of takedowns is usually far from crystal clear. Later on the first day, Karine e Silva, who is affiliated with both Tilburg University and the KU Leuven, gave an interesting presentation on the topic, with a strong focus on the other side of the debate - the side that is concerned with privacy and making sure law enforcement doesn't cross legal boundaries.

Although there were some interesting talks on APTs and other kinds of advanced malware, what I liked about the conference was that several talks focused on malware that doesn't fit into those categories, yet is still a serious problem - or, as Łukasz Siewierski from CERT Polska called it, "middle income malware". Łukasz gave an interesting presentation about a piece of malware that targeted Polish users and, when a 26-digit Polish bank account number was copied to the clipboard, replaced it with that of an account controlled by the malware authors. It was one of those cases where you have to admit that, while obviously doing something bad, the attackers did it in a rather neat way.

Tom Ueltschi's talk on 'Ponmocup' (also known as 'Vundo') was less new, as he had already spoken about the malware last year. Still, it was interesting to hear an update on this rather mysterious botnet and great to see that Tom, who has done a lot of the research in his free time, is still chasing it.

Given that VB also runs a security conference, I usually refrain from making public comment on the organisation of other events, but I'll gladly make an exception for the team behind Botconf. From the welcome booth at Nancy's train station to the gala dinner at the city's Museum of Fine Arts, the organisation was superb. Next year's conference will take place in Paris. I will certainly be there.

Slides and videos from the conference can be found on Botconf's website. As for my own presentation (co-presented with João Gouveia from AnubisNetworks) on the 'Mevade' botnet, a video of it is embedded below.

For full coverage of the conference, please refer to Xavier Mertens's reviews (day 1, day 2, day 3).

Posted on 22 December 2014 by Martijn Grooten



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