The Changing Landscape of Application Security at Black Hat USA 2016

By: Mike Milner

The Black Hat conference has come a long way in the last 19 years. It has always had a reputation as a “hackers” conference, but these days those hackers include thousands of software security professionals from across the globe, along with the biggest names in research and academia, working to protect software and hardware of all types.

The event drew a record-breaking crowd of 15,000 this year, and, not surprisingly, application security was on the minds of many. In past years, the discussion around application security was focused primarily on coding vulnerabilities. But with the embrace of the cloud and the increasing emphasis in many organizations on building and deploying web applications, the focus is shifting to runtime threats, such as Account Takeover attacks.

Stolen credentials, web shells, backdoors, SQL injections — all of these have been on the rise in 2016, according to experts including the researchers at Verizon. We also saw some innovative attack vectors exploiting some new functionality in web standards that are actually designed to make the web safer. So the question facing many at Black Hat was: how are application security technologies evolving to keep up with these threats?

I of course had many conversations about Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP). Most large organizations have immense portfolios of applications and are looking for technology that can deploy easily across many different platforms to provide consistent monitoring and protection across all their apps. Many companies are currently running trials or looking to start a trial shortly.

Other Black Hat trends and discussions of note included:

  • Increasing maturity in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies on exhibit; this market segment is developing into something more than a fad
  • Yet another large list of bypasses for popular Web Application Firewalls
  • Lots of talk about mobile application development, including a look at OAuth and related trends in user authentication
  • More car hacking in various forms
  • A look at vulnerabilities stemming from weakened cryptography
  • An examination of the latest phishing tactics and ways organizations can evolve training to keep employees and other users from becoming victims.

Originally published at on August 9, 2016.

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