BLACK HAT - Ethical hacker group to counter 'black PR'

A self-styled ethical hacker group plans to counter moves by companies to bury security vulnerability information

A self-styled ethical hacker group plans to counter moves by companies that attempt to bury security vulnerability information in order to protect their businesses.

Companies spend a lot of money on crisis management teams that try to keep a lid on situations that could alarm their customers, so-called "black public relations," said Petko D. Petkov of GNU Citizen -- a close-knit group of blogging researchers who have published several big scoops on software vulnerabilities.

Black PR is a bit of a black art. It can involve pressure on people, careful sculpting of the media and other ways to keep calm during a crisis situation, Petkov said this week at the Black Hat conference in Amsterdam.

Petkov's organization has been no stranger to controversy, and it has encountered pressure before from small companies concerning security vulnerabilties.

GNU Citizen sticks by the tenets of responsible disclosure, which involved contacting companies that have problems with their software and giving them enough notice to fix the bug before it is publicly published. Nonetheless, they've been blamed by companies for enabling attacks on their systems.

"You don't really want to get on the wrong terms with the wrong company," Petkov said.

GNU Citizen's "antiblack PR" unit looks at the broad implications of security problems -- a company's economic interests, what data may be compromised -- and formulates a big picture on the machinations of a company and what's at stake when, for example, banking systems are compromised.

Part of the problem is the economics of fixing faulty software. Creating and distribution patches is very expensive, and a few vendors would rather fly below the radar than fix them, Petkov said.

"Most of the companies, they just don't fix them [software problems]," Petkov said. "They build a big black PR group to counter stories."

Some security situations are just too big to cover up. Retailer TJX suffered one of the largest data breaches ever last year. Around 45.6 million credit and debit card numbers were pilfered from its system. But many other security problems receive scarce attention.

Petkov said the antiblack PR project rivals GNU Citizen's work on security research. "This is actually one of the biggest games in the world to me," he said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?