AusCERT 2018 - The (not so) great debate

It's an AusCERT tradition. The final session on the last day of the event is the ever-popular speed debate session. But this year there were some twists. long time MC of AusCERT, the ABC's Adam Spencer wasn't available this year so Darren Kitchen, the host of internet show Hak5 to host the conference. But he was one of the seven debaters on the panel. So, the hosting duties were left to Adam Spencer, who appeared on the display of a roving robot. This was one of the more interesting approaches I've seen to debate moderation but it added an extra dimension to the event - especially when Spencer lost control and fell over. 

This year, the debaters were 

  • Sebastian Kinne from Hak5
  • Brian Brushwood, a self confessed "modern rogue"
  • Well known security journalist and troublemaker Stilgherrian
  • Brad Duncan from Palo Alto Networks
  • Eric Pinkerton from Hivint
  • Darren Kitchen, the host of internet show Hak5
  • Patrick Gray, the host of the world famous Risk Business Podcast 
  • Pen-tester extraordinaire and advocate for better bug bounties, Katie Moussouris
  • Alex Tilley from Dell SecureWorks

Each bright their won particular flair to the. However, that fair did. to often include superior debating skills. But the lively arguments were very entertaining.

The nine participants were set against each other to answer six questions. This year, the debate covered

1 - Cambridge Analytica did nothing wrong, with Stilgherrian, Sebastian and Brad arguing for the affirmative and Eric, Darren and Patrick arguing for the negative. 

2 - Are we amusing ourselves to death with Sebastian, patrick and Brian arguing for the positive and Brad, alex and Katie arguing for the negative.

3 - Machine learning is the new alchemy was positively argued by Stilgherrian, Darren an katie with Eric, Brad and Brian arguing the other way.

4 - Your CPU cycles or your life - cryptomining in the browser saw Eric, Brad and Katie face off against Sebastian, Patrick and Alex.

5 - China has it right - social ranking is the future was positively argued by Sebastian, Stilgherrian and Alex with the counter position taken by Eric, Darren and Brian.

6. -20 years of vulnerability disclosure - nailed it was argued in the affirmative by Stilgherrian, Patrick and Brian with Darren, Alex and Katie saying things aren't any better.

It would be nice to say the debates, where each speaker had just a minute to make their point, were argued succinctly and with great eloquence. But they weren't. 

Between Brad pausing during each of his arguments to take "phone calls" offering advice, Stigherrian's rant about unruly airline passengers taking their shoes off mid-flight and Patrick's constant references to the "tangerine-coloured man-baby" in the Whitehouse, the debates freewheeled in something that could only loosely be called organised chaos. Perhaps they highlight of the debate was Brian's closing salvo, which had nothing to do with the topic at hand, vulnerability disclosure, but did take us on a journey into catching his daughter looking at a certain type of pornography on her computer and how spanking her would be completely inappropriate.

But among the humour and shenanigans, a few serious points were made.For instance, while there's great outrage at what Cambridge Analytica did, no-one really knows if it made a difference to  the US election. And that people allow themselves to be easily manipulated by social media. But the laughs and manic digressions were what everyone was really there for.

At the end of the six rounds there was one debater, who stood apart. Having not once, in the six debates, been on the winning side Stilgherrian stood alone. 

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