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Ahead of the bell: Hacker conference kicks off

Date: August 07, 2008

Black Hat hacker conference kicks off in Vegas, Microsoft researchers among presenters

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - The Black Hat computer security conference, which every year draws thousands of hackers, government investigators and corporate executives, is slated to kick off Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Many of this year's talks revolve around securing Internet applications _ a juicy source of sensitive personal information like passwords and financial data _ and underlying infrastructure problems with the Internet that place even alert computer users at risk.

One of the most anticipated talks is scheduled for Wednesday morning, when researcher Dan Kaminsky of Seattle-based computer security consultant IOActive Inc. will present details of a major vulnerability he found in the Domain Name System (DNS), which translates written words into numerical codes that computers can understand.

Kaminsky announced last month that he had found a flaw in DNS but kept details secret to allow companies a full month to fix their machines before he gave his presentation at Black Hat.

Other closely watched presentations include a talk Thursday afternoon from Microsoft Corp. researchers about the software titan's new security initiatives.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company already announced plans this week to release details about vulnerabilities to security software makers before they go out to the general public in Microsoft's monthly updates. The move is designed to help vendors get a head start on the hackers in developing fixes for security holes. Releasing the information at the same time put everyone on equal footing, triggering a race between hackers to write attacks and vendors to build protections against them.

Thursday will also feature a keynote speech by the new U.S. cybersecurity chief Rod Beckstrom, an author and entrepreneur who in his new role as a Department of Homeland Security official is responsible for coordinating the government's efforts to protect its computer networks from attack.
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