Hackers plan to clobber the cloud, spy on Blackberries

The Hack in the Box security conference will highlight threats on popular networking sites such as Facebook

A new era of computing is on the rise and viruses, spies and malware developers are tagging along for the ride.

The new playground for hackers is "the cloud," the term for computer applications and services hosted on the Internet. Some of the devices making the cloud more popular these days are BlackBerries and other smartphones.

"The focus [of security] is definitely moving towards 'the cloud' and to the security of embedded devices (Android, iPhone) to more advanced client-side attacks which leverage on Web 2.0 technologies, such as attacks on Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites," said Dhillon Andrew Kannabhiran, host and organizer of the Hack In The Box (HITB) security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week.

HITB is one of the most prominent security conferences in Asia and now runs twice a year. The big show is in Malaysia, while the newer, yet smaller HITB is held in Dubai. The conference brings together leading security experts and draws self-proclaimed hackers, but Kannabhiran says it's not a wild hacker party. It offers knowledgeable presentations by leading experts in an informal setting, where people can ask questions and meet presenters at events throughout the week.

"Clobbering the Cloud" and "Spying on BlackBerry Users for Fun" are actually titles of two presentations slated for the HITB conference on Wednesday. Other interesting titles include "How to Own the World - One Desktop at a Time" and "Offensive Cloud Computing With Hadoop and Backtrack."

HITB training sessions run Monday and Tuesday, while the general conference is on Wednesday and Thursday.

This year, HITB Malaysia follows on the heels of a regional government-level security conference held in Hyderabad, India a few weeks ago, the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union Regional Cybersecurity Forum for the Asia-Pacific. The conference highlighted cybersecurity and sought to build a consensus among nations to strengthen laws against the misuse of IT as well as educate their growing legions of computer users and establish National Computer Incident Response Teams to deal with and share data about possible threats.

A key issue among government leaders at the conference was child pornography as well as how to protect children from inappropriate content and online harassment.

Kannabhiran believes security issues are the same all over the world, but agrees that raising awareness may be an issue that is unique to Asia. "Many people still think in terms of products such as firewalls and intrusion prevention systems and not in terms of procedures that increase security," he said.

HITB has attracted a number of high profile speakers and presenters this year. Keynote speakers include Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.org, the Web site devoted to publishing leaks of sensitive government and corporate documents, as well as Joe Grand, president of Grand Idea Studio and former co-host of "Prototype This" on the Discovery Channel.

Presenters include Lucas Adamski, director of security at Mozilla, as well as BlackBerry spy presenter Sheran Gunasekera and a Tempest Lab session by Andrea Barisani and Daniele Bianco, who will give users a hands-on guide to remote keystroke sniffing using mechanical energy emissions and power line leakage.

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