REVULN 19Q4 recap

6 min readDec 22, 2019

The REVULN 19Q4 conference ended about one week ago and the framework has proved to be working, even despite the problems affecting the location in the recent months.

Hong Kong is “still there”, daily life is the usual and everything is normal except for fewer recycle bins, big barriers around government buildings, washed out graffitis on some walls and a queue for entering the airport. From a “tourist” point of view there is nothing to complain: hotels slightly cheaper, flights with empty seats, no crowds in tourist attractions and it’s great to see a river of almost one million of people marching together in Causeway Bay.

It’s not a secret that the attendees from abroad (and even myself) were worried about the protests and many people just did not want to come to Hong Kong, really no way, it has been quite difficult to find international speakers and even participants.

The corrections adopted after the previous experience with REVULN 19 in May have been very good, resulting in a smoother and even more relaxed event. The idea of using a cool-down period after each presentation worked for various reasons:

  • giving a break for coffee, snacks and relaxing
  • interacting with the speaker in private if Q&A wasn’t enough
  • acting as buffer for speakers going long during their speech or when the Q&A session is very intense
  • having a good networking with the other participants, 15 minutes are enough to chat with the surrounding attendees and exchanging business cards

Another difference with the previous event has been the location of the venue, now in Sai Ying Pun in the western side of Hong Kong island and just at the end of one of the tunnels going to Kowloon, less than 30 minutes from the airport with the A10/A12 bus. The area around the hotel is also surrounded by amenities and it’s not crowded like Sheung Wan and Central.

The room of the venue is also attached to the cafe in case the attendees desire some food and there is also a large relax area with computers, very quiet. Really positively surprised and the only “complaint”, if really in mood of finding something vaguely negative, were the stairs from the lift to the room.

For the pre-event and first day dinner we opted for the food market in Queen Street, it’s almost a tradition now to stay at these characteristic markets of Hong Kong: good food, local cuisine, cheap prices and perfect for breaking the ice in a totally informal environment.

Now let’s talk about the conference with a quick recap:

  • 2 days, Wednesday and Thursday
  • 10 presentations
  • speakers from 6 countries (US, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, India and Hong Kong)
  • starting time 10:00, ending time 17:00
  • first day focused on fake news
  • second day open topic (last presentation was related to fake news too)

The choose of the “open topic” day wasn’t the original plan. When the Call for Speakers was launched, the idea was to have one day on fake news and second day on artificial intelligence in crime prevention (mainly face recognition for public security and law enforcement), unfortunately it has been impossible to find speakers covering this difficult and current topic and that’s how the “open topic day” came to mind.

The idea revealed to be a success since it allows to get a touch of different topics on different subjects, it may be open minded for participants coming at the event interested in a specific topic and then finding an unexpected interest from presentations that cover different fields like cybersecurity, data privacy, OSINT and even… physics.

The presentation on physics has been an emergency presentation hold on the fly by Sebastien BOURDEAUDUCQ and Stewart MACKENZIE (who also was the host of the event) about their ion trap project because the speakers from Indonesia on the second slot of day one weren’t able to attend due to last minute imminent assignments.

Mei NELSON gave an overview of the groups worldwide using different disinformation techniques, their motivations and various case studies.

Masayuki HATTA talked about japanese websites and blogs which spread fake news for profit called “matome”.

Chung-Jui LAI provided a very detailed presentation on the fake news affecting Taiwan and how the local police handles them, how performing collection and analysis of data and various examples.

In the last presentation of the day Rachel BLUNDY talked about the Fact Check department of AFP, the cooperation with Facebook in fighting fake news, how to perform quick fact checking and verification of images and videos.

Isao MATSUNAMI discussed the problem of trusting social networks and the Internet itself with also some examples related to Japan, a situation that poses many problems to journalists and the various solutions available still have various usage problems.

Mahendra TIPALE talked about one of the current projects in FireEye in which he is personally involved, collecting data from deep and dark web for post analysis and searching.

Stewart MACKENZIE started his presentation with an introduction on centralized and decentralized networks, while in the second part he gave information about his current project meant for securely distributing data.

James GRIFFITHS spoke about the firewall implemented in China for preventing people in organizing themselves and some information about the markets created around it.

Last speaker of the event was Trey MENEFEE of the OSINT HK group focused on analyzing video footage and information for verifying various facts happened in Hong Kong like the Yau Ma Tei stampede.

The Q&A sessions of the presentations have been full of interactions and discussions, really a very pleasant and constructive experience with lot of interesting content and feedback.

All the attendees who were present at the event and weren’t able to download the PDF of the slides from the Wi-Fi router can contact me for accessing the documents. (update: slides are available here)

We are currently working on the next event planned at the end of April, the topics and country have already been selected, the Call for Speakers will be announced in few weeks.